De Lima: Duterte apology over 'trash' matrix proves my innocence

MANILA, Philippines – For embattled Senator Leila de Lima, President Rodrigo Duterte’s apology to several Pangasinan officials over his erroneous drug matrix is clear proof that she, too, is not linked to illegal drugs.

The President issued a public apology to several Pangasinan officials led by former governor now 5th District Representative Amado Espino Jr for being "negligent in counterchecking" a drug matrix he publicly released in August.

"It is a clear admission that there is really nothing in that ridiculous drug matrix that links me to the illegal drug trade. It is tragic that the highest official of the land has not only been fed lies and wrong information but also has listened to rumors and intrigues," the senator said.

The same matrix implicated De Lima in the proliferation of the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison when she was justice secretary – the same subject of an ongoing congressional inquiry led by Duterte’s allies.

The document, De Lima reiterated, is nothing but "trash." She had warned Duterte that he would be humiliated later on as she is confident he would not be able to prove his allegations against her.

“Stop the madness! I’ve been telling you, Mr President, 'di kayo nakikinig eh (you never listen). I warned you already mapapahiya kayo (you will be humiliated). Nag-uumpisa na siya mapahiya tungkol nga diyan sa drug matrix (He's now beginning to be humiliated over the drug matrix). Marami pa po magiging basehan ng mga kahihiyan 'nyo (There will be other basis for your humiliation),” De Lima said.

The senator said the President’s admission of fault now casts "serious doubts" on the intelligence groups behind the matrix.

“The alleged drug matrix, as I pointed out before, is nothing but trash and therefore, should not be given any grain of credibility. It also casts serious doubts on the people behind the so-called intelligence information which, to my mind, do not appear intelligent at all,” she added.

Faulty Oplan TokHang list, too?

With the errors in the publicized drug matrix, De Lima expressed concern over the veracity of the information used in the administration’s Oplan TokHang against illegal drugs.

“Most importantly, if this is the kind of information fed to the President, how reliable is the information fed to the PNP by barangay captains in Operation TokHang?” she asked.

“What does that tell us about barangay captains’ lists of drug pushers and addicts who are subjected to TokHang and vigilante assassinations based on said lists, if intel provided the President himself is prone to mistakes?” the senator added.

De Lima said no amount of apology could compensate for a lost life.

“This is the problem with extrajudicial killings and the death penalty. No amount of apologies from the President will bring back the dead to life. He is not Jesus Christ who can bring back Lazarus to life, contrary to the belief of his fanatic supporters,” she said.

De Lima, one of Duterte's fiercest critics, launched a probe into the recent spate of extrajudicial killings, which drew the ire of the President. The two have long-standing differences, dating back to the Arroyo administration, when the then Commission on Human Rights chief investigated the then Davao mayor and his alleged links to the Davao Death Squad. – Rappler.com

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

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