Leila de Lima

[Newspoint] Finally, the tide turns

Vergel O. Santos

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[Newspoint] Finally, the tide turns

David Castuciano

The second acquittal gives reasonable cause to believe things have begun to go Leila de Lima’s way

Former senator Leila de Lima’s acquittal in two of the three cases of drug dealing brought against her gives the sense of a decided turning of the tide toward her full vindication.

The first acquittal, two years ago, had sparked similar hopes, but when the court denied a subsequent petition for her provisional liberty, these hopes were replaced with suspicions that the acquittal had been intended only to give the impression that the judicial system in Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency was in proper working order. That it was not is the precise reason he has been in trouble with the International Criminal Court, for human-rights violations in his war on drugs, a war that more and more looks made to accommodate his vengeful plot against De Lima.

But the second acquittal, just last week, gives reasonable cause to believe things have begun to go De Lima’s way. For one thing, Duterte is now out of power and his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., seems more susceptible to the pressure, building up steadily lately, of doing right by her. In fact, even before the acquittal, Marcos had offered to set her free “on humanitarian grounds.” 

But to someone whose innocence needs no proving such an offer could only be patronizing. Sure enough, De Lima rejected it outright, a position that, taken in the face of her prolonged suffering, becomes even more admirable. As the Movement Against Tyranny said in a public statement issued on the occasion of the acquittal: 

“While there’s every reason to be gratified by [it]…it can scarcely be said to be a triumph of legal justice: she has suffered more than six years of incarceration for patently concocted charges…as shown by the absence of concrete evidence…and the state’s reliance on the word of life-term drug convicts and other easily coercible false witnesses. Indeed, her persecution followed vengeful threats made by…Duterte, whom she had pursued…for death-squad murders from his days as mayor of Davao City. [She was Human Rights Commission chairperson at the time.]

“If [both] acquittals were a triumph of justice at all, these resulted not from any normal workings of the Philippine judicial system, but from moral pressure [brought upon] the state and its institutions – pressure that, as a matter of course, should also result in her acquittal in the third case and the restoration of full freedom to her.”

The state did concede the loss, but not without trying to salvage what it could from the situation. Put in a particularly awkward position was Jesus Crispin Remulla. A Duterte enforcer in his days in Congress, he has inherited, as justice secretary to Marcos, the prosecutorial captainship for the De Lima cases; he just had to say something – this: 

“The rule of law has prevailed, and it just points out to us that the independence of the judiciary is a basic foundation of our democracy.” 

For all its shadiness, that might have avoided being picked on. But by adding, “So, it is good,” he only further complicated things for himself.

Whatever rule of law he was referring to certainly proved good for his son who was caught receiving a package of high-grade marijuana valued at P1.3 million: he walked free in less than three months, acquitted for lack of evidence. De Lima, on the other hand, remains in jail despite her acquittals.

Even more ridiculous than Remulla is Harry Roque, but that is no surprise: He has been a shining specimen of the species since his incarnation from human-rights defender to human-rights trampler. 

Roque sat in Congress as a party-list representative. His party expelled him precisely for promoting the plot against De Lima. Duterte picked him up and made him press secretary, but also dropped him in the end. After a failed run for, first, a seat on the International Law Commission of the United Nations and, then, a seat in the Philippine Senate, he fell into limbo – only to insinuate himself again.

Characteristically, he reemerges with a foot in his mouth – so long as he gets himself noticed, he doesn’t mind doing the most distasteful of tricks. Now he wants those who took back their testimonies against De Lima investigated. These are the very witnesses Duterte herded for his own plot – how dare they!  

Evidently, Roque does not believe in moral regeneration – only in the inexorable descent into hell once a certain point is reached – and presumes Duterte’s own false witnesses have been reversely coerced by this woman who has managed to wield power and influence sitting in solitary confinement all these years. 

The thought of Roque, Remulla, and Duterte being swamped by the turning tide for De Lima and deposited by the undertow in the bowels of the sea may feel comforting. But the likes of them don’t drown easily. – Rappler.com

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