Leila de Lima

[Newspoint] Leila de Lima’s trials

Vergel O. Santos

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

[Newspoint] Leila de Lima’s trials

Marian Hukom

Still, for all the conspiratorial powers he inherited from Duterte, Marcos can withstand only to a point the moral pressure brought upon him from everywhere to set De Lima free

When Leila de Lima, just recently, rejected offers from on high for her release from jail “on humanitarian grounds,” we came upon a revolutionary for freedom and justice such as we’ve never seen. Anyone who disagrees with that, or doubts it, could only have allowed themselves to become selectively sightless. 

And it’s precisely for their capability of hiding in plain sight that De Lima’s trials bear reviewing, and not only at this time but every time injustice comes up as an issue – injustice, after all, is the story of our time, and De Lima our prisoner of conscience.

Her trials started once she set out after Rodrigo Duterte and his death squad. She was chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights at the time, and he mayor of Davao City. Targeted for assassination during an investigative visit to Davao, she only escaped by changing routes accidentally. But once he became President, there was no escape for her.

Under the pretext of a newly declared war on drugs and on evidence consisting of nothing more than the word of convicts serving life terms and other easily manipulatable testifiers, Duterte had De Lima arrested at the Senate – she had just begun to serve a six-year term – and taken straight to jail. Denied bail at every turn, she has been fighting her case from jail for more than six years now.

Duterte’s exit from the presidency has scarcely eased her situation. In fact, under his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., visits with her have been further restricted – it has been the experience of even former regular visitors to be kept waiting futilely while our clearances are processed interminably. But what can you expect of Duterte’s anointed?

Still, for all the conspiratorial powers he inherited from Duterte, Marcos can withstand only to a point the moral pressure brought upon him from everywhere to set De Lima free. Now out of power, Duterte has become fairer game himself, particularly for the International Criminal Court, in The Hague, which has been after him for the thousands of kills in his indiscriminate drug war.

Indeed, Marcos is apparently anxious to concede something, although possibly just as anxious not to antagonize Duterte and his loyalists, some of them holdovers, who wish to keep De Lima in jail and the investigators at bay and out of Duterte’s hair. He thus ends up going for pretexts and half-measures and making himself only look insincere all around.

Last October, for instance, De Lima was taken hostage by three fellow detainees trying to escape; she was rescued unhurt. How it happened to the state’s supposedly most closely guarded solitary detainee remains unexplained. At any rate, offers of a “safer cell” were floated, which she declined, saying she felt safe enough where she was, a most fetching way of saying she saw perfectly through the whole ploy. 

Marcos was even less subtle the next time. After plunder indictee Gigi Reyes was released from jail as a “humanitarian” case, after nine years in detention, a similar deal was offered De Lima. The comparison is, of course, too odious: Reyes went to jail through a credible-enough judicial process; De Lima is a victim of a patently fraudulent one. 

Nine years is, admittedly, too long for anyone to spend in jail as a mere accused, but the more obvious case of unfairness Reyes did not dare raise. Fellow indictee Juan Ponce Enrile, her boss at the Senate, had walked free eight years earlier, himself a humanitarian case, fooling everyone with his 91 years: he is now chief legal counsel to Marcos – at 99. 

Fellow senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla followed Enrile to freedom. They had been jailed for the same normally non-bailable crime of plunder. But, much too young to qualify for the same nicety as Enrile, they were all the same granted bail. Revilla has since been acquitted. He and Estrada are now back in the Senate, back in the old boys’ majority.

Also acquitted under the Duterte regime, also of plunder, although in a separate case, was Gloria Arroyo. She had gotten away with worse before – the presidency, on a rigged vote, no less. She’s now a deputy Speaker and a close adviser to Marcos. She herself has an ax to grind with De Lima, the secretary of justice in the government that had succeeded hers who stopped her at the airport all set to flee from justice.

There’s your notorious club the Marcos regime was trying to get De Lima identified with when it held out its tricky hand to her. Thanks, but no thanks – I can almost hear her speak through the royal-blue ink with which she pens her fighting words from jail, on her Senate letterheads. I’m no charity case, neither the clubby type. It’s freedom and justice I demand and deserve, not jail, nor patronage. 

The challenge, particularly to Marcos and his courts, has been rising sharply these days more than ever. Duterte’s herded chorale of false witnesses has been quiet or dead or recanting, which is all good for the soul. 

As for De Lima, she has no soul problem – her innocence needs no proving. – Rappler.com

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