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The following statement is among those put out on the occasion of the grant of bail to the nation’s prisoner of conscience:
“Finally, Leila de Lima walks free, if only provisionally – on bail. To be sure, this is far from the justice that she deserves after being held in prison for six years and nearly 10 months on charges manufactured for a president’s vengeful criminal desires.
“But, while the nation should take the concession as a matter of course, it should understand that De Lima owes her freedom to no one and that, if there’s anything at all to celebrate, it is the unflinching conviction and the rare quality of heroism she has shown throughout her ordeal.
“And if justice and democracy were to be served in her case at the minimum, state restitution should be exacted for her.”
Unsurprisingly, the statement is suitably nuanced. It came from the Movement Against Tyranny, and tyranny precisely defined the obtaining environment in which De Lima was singled out for persecution, by Rodrigo Duterte, the president at the time. Hers was a case of democratic justice honored more in the breach than in the observance – indeed honored in its travesty.
Neither should her case be seen as an indication of any policy move by Duterte’s successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., toward righting wrongs perpetrated before his time. His own family has yet to come clean about its patriarch’s dictatorship of torture, murder, and plunder (1972-1986).
But, make no mistake, although a mere collateral beneficiary, De Lima serves no small purpose in the current effort by the Marcos regime to consolidate power. Her release is only its latest concession to a public mood it has found worth exploiting for political gain.
Riding that mood, Marcos began by restoring the nation’s traditional diplomatic and security partnership with the United States and enlisting it, along with Japan and Australia, in a joint pushback on China in the West Philippine Sea, the strategic and resource-rich territorial waters Duterte had treasonously ceded to it. Next came the scrapping or shelving or reexamination of public works contracts and other fat favors bestowed by Duterte on the Chinese. Then followed the junking of Duterte and his party from the ruling coalition.
As for De Lima, Marcos apparently intended her, by her release, as a sort of deodorizer of his own smelly past. And, by promoting her as a poster victim of Duterte’s draconian presidency, he gives himself perfect cause to not only get rid of Duterte as a political partner but deal with the mess he left. In that case, he might even go so far as to feed him to the International Criminal Court, in The Hague, by allowing its prosecutors to come, investigate, and build their case against him for the thousands of summary killings in his war on drugs.
Indeed, wishful thinkers should find happy signs in Duterte being taken to court for an old murderous habit he has gotten away with, until now. His accuser is France Castro, a minority party-list member of Congress. He has threatened her with death after she successfully led the opposition to his daughter Sara, the vice president and education secretary, in her bid for her own confidential fund – a potential political kitty of P650 million!
No one, of course, takes a Duterte death threat inconsequentially. With him, killing is a compulsive aberration. De Lima can tell you that; she herself came within an inch of losing her life in the same circumstance when she was the chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights. Finding herself in Davao City during Duterte’s mayoralty for inquiries into death-squad murders there, she escaped assassination only by fortuitously changing routes. That’s why she cannot not make Duterte pay and stop him for good. Anyway, just give her time to get settled in her stride.
On the part of the state, as the statement from the Movement Against Tyranny suggests, “at the minimum…restitution should be exacted for her.” As for Marcos having done the right thing, if for the wrong reasons, the statement sets things straight, “De Lima owes her freedom to no one.”
And if I might add, lest the ecstasy over her restored freedom blind us to the Marcoses’ own untold debt, in lost or ruined lives, not mere money, they owe us – big time! – Rappler.com
The views expressed by the writer are his own and do not reflect the views or positions of Rappler.