[OPINION | NEWSPOINT] The nation’s debt to De Lima

Vergel O. Santos
[OPINION | NEWSPOINT] The nation’s debt to De Lima
Duterte may be crazy, but surely not so crazy as to think himself immune from repayment. As it happens, he is De Lima’s biggest debtor.

Every one of us should visit Senator Leila de Lima, or in any case should let her know that we know that we owe her. 

She alerted us to Rodrigo Duterte’s malevolent character and in that way foretold somehow the nightmare we are living today. She tried to do what she could about it, over denials from many of us that, given the starkest of proofs, could only be diagnosed as sick. She carries on trying anyway. 

She would have done so sitting in the Senate, a perfectly deserved position and a decidedly easier one than she has found herself in, if President Duterte had not succeeded in putting her in detention on cooked-up charges, without the benefit of bail, and out of vengeance. Like her, Duterte had been elected to a 6-year term, until 2022; she served in freedom for only 7 months.  

Duterte’s hatred of De Lima goes back a long way. She began to investigate him when she was chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and he mayor of Davao City, accused of death-squad murders. A confessed assassin would testify later that she had been marked for liquidation by his squad during a visit to Davao but managed to escape by changing routes, only coincidentally.   

De Lima resumed her investigation as a senator, this time additionally occasioned by a war on drugs that left too many dead bodies on the streets to not provoke suspicions of summary executions. But she was no match to a conspiracy of Penitentiary inmates who testified that she had herself taken part in drug trafficking inside prison, and senators and judges ready to take those inmates at their word, with neither a pinch of the banned powder nor one cent of ill-gotten wealth for evidence. 

It is reasonable enough to presume that those inmates were looking for a better deal than the life terms they were serving. Sure enough, they have been transferred to a Marine barracks to be safe supposedly from assassins planted by De Lima at Prisons – and doubtless for more comfortable lodgings, too. No one knows what ultimate quid pro quo is in store for them, although hints are raised by a current scandal: inmates are being furloughed or freed or otherwise given favors not necessarily for good conduct or any other eligibility under the law, but also for a price.  

De Lima herself is allowed out only to appear in court, and even then she is guarded closely and heavily, engulfed out of sight and earshot by swarms of police constantly making coughing and hawking noises and flailing their arms to block or blur the view of onlookers. That she is at all capable of running a death squad of her own in those circumstances is beyond absurd; the notion is consistent only with the implausible crime imputed to her. 

She is actually preoccupied with writing commentaries from jail – denied any decent devices, she does it all by hand. These commentaries are smuggled out for airing in the press or posting online. Her words are so bold, so relevant, so sensible, not to say thoughtful, and so knowledgeable it is understandable that Duterte’s senators cannot risk having her among them: as it is, they are already gravely challenged.

In the more than two years and a half that De Lima has been a mere shadow senator, Duterte has gone on to rule arbitrarily and with impunity. He placed Mindanao under martial law 3 months after sending her to jail, and has kept things that way. He got the Supreme Court to oust its own chief justice, who was jsimply too independent-minded for his comfort. His war on drugs has proceeded with such unremitting brutality that he has been reaping an intensifying whirlwind of international protest. He has gone after his media critics and political foes more and more aggressively, verbally abusing or otherwise intimidating some but actually taking others to court, on whimsical charges, of which subversion or rebellion, libel, and tax deficiency are the usual ones. His subservience to China has allowed it to take control over our strategic and resource-rich western sea, peddle to us onerous loans and other lopsided contracts, and swamp our shores with Chinese rivals for local business and jobs. 

None of that has gone uncommented on by De Lima. Even from jail, she gives off a strong current of haunting energy. This is evident in the great groundswell of clamor for her freedom from leaders, governments, and organizations across the world as well as in the sense of retribution that Duterte himself betrays now and then, such as when he says Xi Jinping will not allow him “to be taken out of office.”

Duterte may be crazy, but surely not so crazy as to think himself immune from repayment. As it happens, he is De Lima’s biggest debtor. – Rappler.com

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