Leila de Lima

[OPINION] Bato’s analysis on De Lima bail doesn’t match reality

Inday Espina-Varona

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[OPINION] Bato’s analysis on De Lima bail doesn’t match reality

Alejandro Edoria/Rappler

Without De Lima's initial push, without her earlier work on the DDS killings, perhaps the whistleblowers would have stayed under wraps

Senator Ronald dela Rosa stammered and blustered as he gave an analysis of the court’s grant of bail for former senator Leila De Lima on November 13.

The former Philippine National Police (PNP) director-general’s response was typical of the six years of illogic spewed by former president Rodrigo Duterte, whose government arrested De Lima on February 24, 2017.

Dela Rosa, nicknamed “Bato” for sharing the ironfisted tactics of his long-time padrone, focused on two main points.

First, he stressed respect for the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary.

Then he tried to fend off queries about the previous government’s weak case, noting that it had “withstood” De Lima’s legal challenges during Duterte’s term.

“Why wasn’t it dismissed then?” asked Duterte’s former top enforcer. “The facts of the case are the same. The merits of the case are the same.”

Any cursory search through news archives will belie his claim of respect for judicial independence or the separation of powers, which he also insisted Duterte shares. 

Duterte clearly orchestrated attacks that involved the use of the legislature. 

In a long timeline of attacks against ABS-CBN, Duterte explicitly relayed his wish to deprive the network of its franchise extension. After the network was forced off government airlanes, he crowed about “dismantling the oligarchy.”

Duterte openly attacked and threatened the judiciary, starting early in his term. 

In August 2016, he brandished a list of alleged drug protectors: around 150 government officials, including police and local government officials, and seven judges. 

At least one of the judges had been dead for years. Some other names did not match the positions or places in the list. 

Then-chief justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno rightly protested the premature pronouncement. That led to attacks leading to her ouster on May 11, 2018.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Diego García-Sayán that year warned that the judicial independence of the Philippines was under attack, noting that Duterte had openly called Sereno his enemy as he called for her removal.

In fact, Duterte liked to threaten anyone who stood in the way of his bloodlust, which by the end of his term had killed more than 6,000 in official police operations and more than 27,000 in vigilante-style killings.

He called rights defenders protectors of drug lords or terrorists. His military and police officials, and minions in the civilian bureaucracy routinely used social media to clobber judges who dismissed cases against activists. Duterte also fulminated against the Commission on Audit and the Commission on Human Rights, both constitutionally-protected independent bodies. 

It was, for six years, obey him, or else.

By the end of 2021, at least 66 judges, prosecutors, and lawyers had been killed under Duterte’s watch. More than 400 activists and 28 mayors or vice mayors were slain during the same period.

Amidst this landscape of fear, Duterte led calibrated attacks against De Lima before her arrest, with the aid of his supermajority in Congress. 

The charge came complete with deliberate spread of falsehood – including doctored sex tapes.

Barely a week into assuming the post of PNP chief, Dela Rosa complained against De Lima’s planned investigation into police anti-drug operations that had already killed scores of suspects.

It was demoralizing the police, he said.

Soon after, Duterte launched a personal tirade against De Lima, raising the first accusations about alleged acceptance of money from drug lords at the national penitentiary.

This was in August 2016; it was clear that his beef involved De Lima’s probe, as then-head of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), into his alleged links to the “Davao Death Squad” (DDS).

A month later, Duterte escalated his attacks

De Lima will go to jail, he vowed. Again, he referenced De Lima’s CHR probe into the Davao City summary executions.

“You started this,” said Duterte, promising his administration would file “plenty” of non-bailable charges against her.

He had good reason to fear De Lima. 

Even when his majority in the Senate ousted her in October 2016 from the Senate committee that had called for the death squad probe, she still spoke out, linking cops and civilians to the kill teams

Around that time, self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato appeared before senators, detailing the DDS activities and linking Duterte and his aides to the killings.

The same hearings surfaced retired Davao policeman Arturo Lascañas. He initially denied the allegations by Motabato. But in March 2017, Lascañas changed his tune, saying he was forced to lie to the Senate. 

The retired cop would eventually submit a 186-page affidavit to the International Criminal Court (ICC), raising damning claims: the use of city hall resources, and active involvement of police officers. 

By then, De Lima had spent more than four years in jail.

Without her initial push, without her earlier work on the DDS killings, perhaps the whistleblowers would have stayed under wraps. – Rappler.com

1 comment

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  1. ET

    Of course, what can you expect from Senator Bato? He is loyal (although perhaps waning?) to his master: the Death-Threatening Eagle of Davao City (DTEDC). Can he be called the Bald Eagle of Davao City (BEDC)? In fairness to Senator Bato, loyalty is a good personal trait and military value.

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