Leila de Lima

Disappointed but forgiving: De Lima says Gordon ‘should have known better’

Bonz Magsambol

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Disappointed but forgiving: De Lima says Gordon ‘should have known better’

FREED. Former senator Leila de Lima at the Rappler headquarters on November 23, 2023.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

'Maybe he had other reasons. But I'd rather not call him out for that,' says former senator Leila de Lima

MANILA, Philippines – After nearly seven years behind bars, former senator Leila de Lima chose to be more understanding and forgiving with what her former colleagues have done to her.

In an exclusive interview with Nobel Peace laureate and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa on Thursday, November 23, De Lima said that she was disappointed with how former senator Richard Gordon chastised her during the 2016 Senate hearing on the so-called Davao Death Squad, but she would “rather not call him out for that.”

“[Gordon] should have known better. Maybe he had other reasons. But I’d rather not call him out for that, or indict him for that. [He] must have reasons,” De Lima told Ressa when asked how she feels now for Gordon and former senator Manny Pacquiao.

“[Gordon] would have been, you know, discerning enough to know then that it was not fair. The treatment that I got from the majority of them, coming out from my defense, is simply unfair,” she added. (READ: De Lima walks out after Gordon chastises her)

As for Pacquaio, De Lima said that she understood why the boxer turned politician moved to strip off the justice committee chairmanship on her.

“Manny Pacquiao? Very understandable. He was a newbie, a neophyte senator. Maybe he was just, you know, he was just prevailed upon by most of our colleagues there to sponsor that resolution,” she said.

Disappointed but forgiving: De Lima says Gordon ‘should have known better’

In 2016, it was Pacquiao who moved that the Senate committee on justice and human rights be declared vacant, leading to De Lima’s ouster as chairperson, with Gordon assuming the position.

Pacquiao was a party mate of former president Rodrigo Duterte. He had echoed and defended the Duterte’s statements and views – from the intensified fight against illegal drugs and death penalty, to the supposed interference of the United Nations and European Union in Philippine affairs.

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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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.