De Lima warns vs ‘looming mistrial’ of cases after Duterte’s sexist insult

Senator Leila de Lima, who remains detained over what she has described as trumped-up drug charges against her, warned there could be a “looming mistrial” of her cases after President Rodrigo Duterte once again threw sexist insults at her. 

In a dispatch on Monday, March 22, the opposition senator said the President’s latest sexist remarks could affect the outcome of her remaining two drug-related cases.

“His prejudicial statements delivered now during the ongoing criminal proceedings against me can only contribute to what is looming to be a mistrial of the most unjust proportions,” said De Lima.

Four days earlier in Tacloban City, Duterte described De Lima as “the only bitch who can make the world believe she’s a prisoner of conscience.”

The President then went on to claim that De Lima supposedly had an affair with deceased drug lord Jaybee Sebastian, a witness in the senator’s drug cases. But De Lima vehemently denied this.

Sebastian had been charged alongside De Lima in the drug cases, and he had already pleaded guilty before his death.

De Lima argued that by injecting Sebastian in gossip, Duterte is “telegraphing” to the courts that the only acceptable verdict in her remaining cases is conviction. 

“Because what judge will act otherwise when the President himself has already passed a judgment of guilt, especially now that even judges and lawyers are being assassinated all over the country under the regime of extra-judicial killings enabled and encouraged by Duterte himself?” she asked.

In February, a Muntinlupa court acquitted De Lima in one of the 3 charges against her. But the same court on March 5 dismissed her appeal in another case. A third case, still related to drugs, is pending in another court.

This isn't the first time that Duterte has resorted to sexist attacks against De Lima.

In 2016, De Lima went to the Supreme Court (SC) to file a petition for a writ of habeas data against the President. In this petition, De Lima had wanted the SC to compel Duterte to remove damaging information that violated her rights to privacy. 

The senator filed the case after Duterte delivered several speeches accusing her of having links to the drug trade.

The President also called her as an “immoral, dirty woman” for supposedly having an affair with  Ronnie Dayan, who had served as De Lima’s body guard. 

It was also Duterte who floated a supposed De Lima sex tape that his allies at the House of Representatives threatened to show in public as the House investigated the senator for alleged drug links.

The SC, however, unanimously denied De Lima's petition and delivered another victory to Duterte in January 2020.

“What institution can now protect me from this madman’s incessant violation of my human rights and assaults on my dignity as a woman and as a human being? The Supreme Court says none. Isn’t this tyranny?” asked the senator.

De Lima is one of the fiercest critics of Duterte, who has long been criticized for waging his bloody war against drugs that has seen thousands of suspects killed in legitimate police operations and vigilante-style killings.

Since Duterte rose to power, at least 56 judges, prosecutors, and lawyers have also been killed between June 2016 to January 2021. But the Department of Justice said only 5 cases of lawyer killings have reached the courts.

Duterte himself is a lawyer but has remained silent on the killings of his colleagues in the law profession. –

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.