MANILA, Philippines – Two days after President Rodrigo Duterte’s attacks, Senator Leila de Lima strongly denied accusations that she has linked to the illegal drugs trade.
While De Lima has publicly responded at least twice since Duterte’s public shaming, the senator only categorically denied the allegations on Friday, August 19. In the two previous media appearances, De Lima was evidently emotional yet feisty, calling the attacks "foul" and "character assassination." (READ: De Lima hits back: Duterte 'abuses, misuses' power)
Addressing criticism that she has not categorically addressed the issue, De Lima maintained she had repeatedly denied it long before the President’s announcements.
"I've denied it many times before. So, I’m denying it again. That’s an absolute lie; that’s completely false! I would never do that because I’ve never betrayed my oath as a public servant and I don’t intend to betray my oath as a public servant, especially that I have a mandate," De Lima told reporters in a mix of English and Filipino.
"I've denied it several times in various interviews because remember these are the insinuations that I am a protector, coddler of drug lords or drug convicts because I am a beneficiary. They said I'm on their payroll and that they contributed to my campaign funds," she said.
In explaining her apparent silence, the senator said she has so far stayed mum on the merits of the accusations because she is having a difficult time.
"You know why I am completely silent? it's very difficult for me because I don't want to be publicly engaging and answer each issue separately, etcetera," De Lima said.
Snippets of truth
Amid denials, De Lima there are some snippets of truth in what Duterte said. But most of them are mere exaggerations.
“But this what I can tell you. We’ve seen some snippets of facts, snippets of truths, but the bulk of it are distortions, exaggerations, and lies,” she added.
De Lima strongly denied that she has someone gathering money for her from the New Bilibid Prison. She, however, has not directly addressed the allegation that she is in a relationship with his driver.
“This is what I can say at this point. Okay, may kaunting totoo d'yan, pero karamihan d'yan, exaggerations, distortions, and lies (Okay, there are some truth to it but most of it are exaggerations, distortions, and lies). And foremost of the lies, is yung sinasabing na may nangongolekta para sa akin sa Bilibid (is that there is someone collecting money for me in Bilibid). That is an absolute lie,” she said.
The neophyte senator said she might publicly speak on the issue again before Monday, August 22, the first day of the Senate probe into the recent spate of drug-related killings – the main issue that caught the President’s ire. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, 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