Leila de Lima

De Lima: Rodrigo Duterte positioning as opposition is ‘pathetic’

Jairo Bolledo

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De Lima: Rodrigo Duterte positioning as opposition is ‘pathetic’

FREED. Former senator Leila de Lima at the Rappler headquarters on November 23, 2023, for her first sit-down and face-to-face interview since her release on November 7.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

'Then here is [Rodrigo] Duterte, now offering himself to be the opposition.... It's a pathetic scene to me,' De Lima says during her exclusive interview with Rappler.

It’s been only more than a week since her release, but former senator Leila de Lima has gradually signaled her return by displaying a degree of straightforwardness and fearlessness.

Although De Lima seemed to be constraining herself at the start insofar as former president Rodrigo Duterte was concerned, she let go during a Rappler exclusive interview with Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa on Thursday, November 23.

“Politics nowadays is exciting. Not yet so turbulent. Maybe as the election period nears, it should become more turbulent. But look [at] what’s happening now, the cracks in the Uniteam,” De Lima said of the current political climate.

“Then here is [Rodrigo] Duterte, now offering himself to be the opposition. It’s pathetic, to me. It’s a pathetic scene to me,” the former lawmaker added.

In his television program on November 8, Duterte said an opposition is essential to a democracy, adding that mistakes of the government should be called out “so the administration will know about it.” The former president’s program is being aired by Sonshine Media Network International owned by televangelist Apollo Quiboloy, a known Duterte supporter, who faces sanctions in the US for alleged rape and human trafficking.

But Duterte’s declaration about the supposed importance of the opposition was inconsistent with how he treated dissenters during his term.

When he was president, progressive individuals were frequently red-tagged for standing up against the government, while some were either killed or detained. 2021 data from rights group Karapatan showed that from July 2016 to December 2021, 427 human rights defenders were killed, 2,807 arrested, 1,161 jailed, and 1,367 raided – all under Duterte’s watch.

During her interview, De Lima also disclosed that she’s not thinking about the politics, but that she does have a role to play. “I do have a role. And my role is to continue portraying myself as someone who has been wronged and someone who can continue to inspire others to do what is right, to do what is just.”

De Lima: Rodrigo Duterte positioning as opposition is ‘pathetic’

De Lima is a perfect example of how Duterte silenced his critics. Because she criticized Duterte and his bloody drug war that killed almost 30,000 people, based on estimates of several human rights groups, three drug cases were lodged against the then-senator.

De Lima was accused of allegedly enabling the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during her time as justice secretary to supposedly fund her 2016 senatorial run. At the height of the probe into the allegations against her, De Lima was subjected to various misogynistic attacks, with some lawmakers even disclosing intimate details about her personal life. (READ: What happened to the ‘climax’ congressmen?)

Only a few months into her Senate term, De Lima was detained inside the Philippine National Police custodial center owing to the drug cases filed against her. It took four years before De Lima secured the first dismissal of one of her cases in 2021.

The second acquittal came in May this year, when a Muntinlupa court cleared De Lima in her second drug charge. She was freed from detention after six years, eight months, and 21 days, after Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 206 granted her bail.

After her release, De Lima kept her first message to Duterte short: “God forgive him and God bless him.”Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.