De Lima says Duterte’s men ‘misguided, power hungry’

Camille Elemia
De Lima says Duterte’s men ‘misguided, power hungry’
The neophyte senator comes out swinging in her first privilege speech, blasting Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for planning to investigate her

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila De Lima minced no words in her first privilege speech on Tuesday, August 2, as she denounced the administration’s “do-it-yourself justice system” and slammed allies of President Rodrigo Duterte for portraying her as a drug coddler and an “enemy” of the government.

De Lima’s speech came weeks after administration officials such as Solicitor General Jose Calida, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez attacked her for her strong stance against the extrajudicial killings spawned by the Duterte government’s campaign against illegal drugs. (READ: Full text: Senator De Lima’s privilege speech)

“In so many ways, and in all sense of the phrase, the President’s men have stood up the world on its head. It is time to put the world back on its feet,” De Lima said.

“Binaligtad na po nila lahat ng kwento tungkol sa maganda nating nagawa sa DOJ, ni wala pa palang imbestigasyon,” said the senator, who was former justice secretary and head of the Commission on Human Rights.

(They have reversed the story about our good work at the Department of Justice, even without any investigation).

Duterte’s allies have accused De Lima of being responsible for the drug proliferation in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa during her term as justice secretary – something that the senator denied.

At the height of the election campaign in May 2016, Duterte himself warned that he would investigate her for the drug trade inside the national prison. (READ: Duterte to De Lima: I will investigate you for shabu in Bilibid)

Fake photos are also circulating online, alluding to her as a coddler of drug lords.

The accusations spread after she announced her plan to ask the Senate to probe the summary execution of hundreds of drug suspects in key cities nationwide.

Two Senate committees, including the one she leads (justice and human rights) are scheduled to conduct the investigation in mid-August. Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa has described the planned probe as a form of “harassment.” (READ: PNP ‘legally harassed’ by De Lima)

“Mr. President, my only defense is my honor and my integrity. This well-oiled social media operation intends to take that away from me. They project me as an enemy of this administration, that I am calling for an investigation on the drug killings because I am a drug lord coddler, that I am against the war on drugs because I am protecting the drug trade,” De Lima said.

De Lima said she is not backing down.

Why investigate me?

“I cannot stay silent in the face of all these blatant lies… I will not fall without a fight. I will not go into that good night without nary a whimper, while all these misguided men use the President’s war against drugs as their platform to destroy any elected public official who dares question the methods by which this war is waged,” De Lima said.

“I will not surrender my mandate as a Senator of the Republic to these unelected and unaccountable personalities whose own motivations in the demolition of my person is highly questionable and utterly despicable,” she added.

De Lima singled out Speaker Alvarez for planning to initiate a House probe into her supposed role in the drug proliferation in the national penitentiary.

For the senator, Alvarez’s act is clearly an “affront” to the Senate.

“This not only goes against inter-parliamentary courtesy, where the House of Representatives investigates a specific member of its co-equal Senate. It is an affront to the Senate as an institution committed by none other than the leader of its co-equal body in Congress,” De Lima said.

De Lima also took the chance to ask the chamber to defend her from a possible probe by the House.

“My defense against the Speaker’s call for my investigation in the House is not inter-parliamentary courtesy. That is your defense, Mr. President, when you defend me as a Senator of the Republic and this Senate as an institution from this blatant break of tradition in courtesy between the two Houses and whenever you decide to demand an end to all this foolishness, before it blows up in our faces. As I so respectfully request now, Mr. President,” De Lima urged. 

The supposed exposés against her, she said, are driven by vested interests and power hungry public officials. Napagsasamantalahan nila ang bawat pagkakataon sa ngalan ng ambisyon at pansariling interes. Hindi natin pwedeng hayaan na magpatuloy ang grupong ito sa hangarin nilang siraan ang lahat ng balakid sa kanilang ambisyon sa kapangyarihan, gamit ang kanilang pagkamalapit sa Pangulo ng ating bansa,” she said.

(They are taking advantage of every opportunity, driven by their ambition and personal interests. We can’t let them continue with their mission to destroy all obstacles blocking their path to power, using their closeness to the President of the country as a shield.)

Ang tanong lang naman nila sa sarili nila ay (Their only question to themselves is) ‘What are we in power for?’ They generate acclamation, or foment fear, whichever works for them,” the senator added.

De Lima said the attacks against her are also meant to silence any incumbent senator who “dares to be outspoken.”

She said: “Pagkatapos ko, sino ang isusunod sa inyo na mangahas na tumiwalag sa kanilang martsa, na hindi sasayaw sa kanilang musika? (After me, who among you will dare break away from their march, will dare not dance to their tune?) That is why ultimately, this is an attack on the Senate as an independent institution,” De Lima said. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com