MANILA, Philippines – Amid attacks against her, Senator Leila de Lima asked President Rodrigo Duterte to spare her friends, family, and colleagues from possible harassment. (READ: De Lima hits back: Duterte clearly 'abuses' and 'misuses' power)
This came after Duterte accused the senator of having an illicit affair with her driver, who is allegedly linked to illegal drugs. (READ: Duterte attacks 'politicking, posturing' De Lima)
"If you are bent on destroying me, please have the decency to spare my colleagues, friends, and family. Wala po silang kasalanan sa inyo (They have not sinned against you)," De Lima said on Thursday, August 18.
"Kung ang pag-atake sa akin ay gagawin sa pamamagitan ng pag-atake rin sa mga dati kong kasama sa trabaho, o maging sa aking sariling pamilya, sana ay huwag na ninyo silang idamay," the senator added.
(If the attacks against me will be done by also attacking my former colleagues, or even my family, I hope you don't drag them into the controversy anymore.)
The senator apparently drew the President's wrath for initiating a Senate inquiry, scheduled next week, into alleged extrajudicial killings committed under the Duterte administration's war on drugs.
Though he had earlier said that De Lima was just "doing her job" as a senator in seeking an inquiry into the killings, Duterte changed his tune last week when he announced in a news briefing that he would "destroy" a lady government official at the right time.
'I fear for my family, loved ones'
The neophyte senator, who has a long-running word war with the President, said she fears for her family and loved ones. (READ: Teary-eyed De Lima on Duterte attack: 'It's very foul')
The two have been at odds over the issue of human rights, especially after the former justice secretary launched an investigation into vigilante killings in Davao City allegedly sanctioned by Duterte as Davao City mayor.
With all the attacks, De Lima admitted she considered dropping the investigation in exchange for a peaceful life. She also shared that other friends and personalities had asked her to slow down and just keep quiet.
“Tao lamang din po ako na nasasaktan, natatakot at nag-aalala rin para sa aking pamilya at mga mahal sa buhay. Kagalang-galang na Pangulo, Your Excellency, naisip ko na rin po na itigil na ang imbestigasyon sa mga summary executions, kung iyon ang gusto ninyo, para lamang matigil ang mga personal na atake sa akin. Sumagi na rin po sa isipan ko na itigil ang imbestigasyon kapalit ng katahimikan sa aking buhay,” she said.
(I'm just a human being who gets hurt, scared, and worried for my family and loved ones. Honorable President, Your Excellency, I had also thought of stopping the investigation into the summary killings, if that's what you want, just to stop the personal attacks against me. It also crossed my mind to stop the investigation in exchange for a quiet life.)
But the thought of stopping the probe was short-lived, as De Lima said she cannot abandon her role as public servant. She added she would rather cause her own downfall than allow the President and his men to do it.
"Pero kapag ginawa ko po ito ay parang tinalikuran ko na rin ang sarili kong pagkatao, at itinatwa ang sarili kong mga paninindigan at paniniwala. Hindi na po ako ang tatayong kinatawan ng bayan sa Senado. Isang huwad na anyo ko na lamang ang tatayo doon. Para ko na rin pong binaon ang aking sariling pagkatao," De Lima said.
(But if I do it, it's like turning my back on my own character, and betraying my own principles and beliefs. I will no longer be the representative of the people in the Senate, I would just be a fake representative. It's like burying my own person.)
The senator lamented how someone as high as the President could attack her, who is "just a senator," she said. De Lima said she is left with no recourse, as her attacker – the President – is immune from any charges while in office.
"How does one defend oneself, when the attacker is immune from suit, and has all the backing of executive power to support him in his personal attack?" she said.
De Lima said she only wants a "fair fight," especially as she is up against no less than the most powerful official in the land.
"Kahit iyon lang po sana ay ibigay ninyo sa akin, ang pagkakataon na ipagtanggol ang aking sarili, lalo na po sa isang kalagayan na ang Pangulo na ng bansa ang nagdeklara na siya ang aking kalaban at personal na nag-aakusa sa akin," she said.
(Just give me the chance to defend myself, especially as it is the President of the country who has declared that I am his enemy and has personally accused me.)
"Pangulo po kayo. Senador lamang po ako. Patas na laban lamang po ang aking hinihingi. Sana ay ibigay ninyo sa akin ang ibinigay na rin naman ng batas at Konstitusyon sa kahit na kaninong na-aakusahan sa ilalim ng ating sistemang pang-legal," she added.
(You are the President. I am just a senator. I am only asking for a fair fight. I hope you give me what the law and the Constitution guarantee an accused person under our legal system.) – Rappler.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org