Alvarez on De Lima: ‘PH justice system is working’

Mara Cepeda

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Alvarez on De Lima: ‘PH justice system is working’
An opposition lawmaker says, however, that Senator Leila de Lima's arrest means it is now 'open season to hunt down the political opposition with trumped-up charges'

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said on Friday, February 24, that the arrest of Senator Leila de Lima was proof that the country’s judicial system “is working.”

“Makikita natin na ang hustisya sa ating bansa ay gumagana. Medyo mabagal nga lang, pero makikita natin na talagang ito ay sumusulong (We can see that the justice system in our country is working. It may be slow, but we can see that it is really moving),” Alvarez said in an interview on dzMM. 

De Lima, the fiercest critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, surrendered to police on Friday after she was served a warrant for her arrest over drug charges. (READ: Emotional De Lima vows to fight charges, seeks prayers for safety in jail)

Her drug charges stemmed from a House probe into the narcotics trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) when she was justice secretary.  

The House committee on justice found links between De Lima, her alleged bagman Ronnie Dayan, and other Bureau of Corrections officials and the Bilibid drug trade, based on the testimonies of inmates.

Alvarez also slammed the claim of De Lima’s party mates at the Liberal Party that her arrest is nothing but political persecution.

“Siguro ‘yung komentaryo na iyan, iyon bang wala ka nang ibang masabi. Dahil nga malinaw naman na kung probable cause pa lamang ang ating pag-uusapan, dahil itong filing of criminal charges, talagang probable cause lang naman ‘yung pinag-uusapan dito at hindi pa iyan guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” he said.

(Perhaps that comment is made by people who have anything else to say. Because it is clear in filing of criminal charges, we’re only talking about probable cause, not yet guilt beyond reasonable doubt.) 

“Malinaw na malinaw ‘yung lumabas na pagdinig sa House of Representatives, na ang dami pong naging basehan para sampahan siya ng kaso,” he added.

(What was revealed during the hearing at the House of Representatives was very clear, that there is enough basis to file a case against her.)

Alvarez, a longtime political ally and friend of Duterte, has been a tough critic of De Lima.

Alvarez and other House leaders filed an ethics complaint against the embattled senator for telling Dayan to snub the House hearing.

The Speaker also previously called De Lima “stupid” for saying that Duterte can be impeached for admitting he had personally killed criminals. 

‘Open season to hunt opposition’

Opposition lawmakers, however, do not share Alvarez’s sentiments 

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin called De Lima’s arrest an “ugly episode.”

“It demeans our sense of justice and fairness. It is now open season to hunt down the political opposition with trumped-up charges and instill fear among our people as we celebrate EDSA People Power,” Villarin told Rappler in a text message. 

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr is also suspicious why De Lima’s arrest warrant was issued on the same week retired Senior Police Officer 3 Arturo “Arthur” Lascañas corroborated the testimony of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato on Duterte’s alleged involvement in the Davao Death Squad.

“The timing betrays the deceit coming after the Lascañas testimony and the exposé of the privileges given hardcore convicts who testified against the senator,” said Baguilat. 

De Lima had previously accused Aguirre of rewarding the inmates who testified against her at the congressional inquiry. Some of those inmates have been cleared of drug charges after they were tapped as state witnesses in the cases against De Lima.

President Rodrigo Duterte himself had earlier described two of the cleared inmates – Herbert Colanggo and Peter Co – as drug lords “beyond redemption” who would surely “die” if they left jail during his term. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.