Leila de Lima

[Pastilan] De Lima’s out, but for Duterte, it was just another day in Chaosville

Herbie Gomez

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[Pastilan] De Lima’s out, but for Duterte, it was just another day in Chaosville

Alejandro Edoria

Civil society is finding its voice again. The international community hailed De Lima's release. But not Duterte; he is probably in his own alternate reality, still convinced that nightmares are the key to successful leadership.

Rodrigo Duterte seems like an anomaly – an interdimensional traveler who stumbled into our reality. From wherever he came, up is down, left is right, and common decency is on permanent vacation. For some still unexplained reason, he found a hole in a parallel universe and managed to crawl into ours.

2016 was the year the circus came to town. He turned everything into a surreal spectacle. He had some sort of Midas touch, but instead of gold, it was chaos. He infected everything with his virus, like some wild maestro conducting a symphony of madness and political BS.

Duterte’s fiercest critic, former senator Leila de Lima, finally got out on bail on November 13, after almost seven years, and his reaction? Just a casual shrug, I bet.

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He didn’t care about justice; he just wanted her to have a nightmare. Because, you know, who needs justice when you can have a good old-fashioned nightmare?

From his viewpoint, De Lima was deprived of liberty for six years, eight months, and 21 days, and that’s enough. He enjoys impunity. And unless that mantle of protection is removed and he sees himself being brought to justice, November 13, 2023, will remain without much meaning to him.

He came and then brought us to a dimension where politics is stranger than fiction, and nightmares pass for governance. After those six abnormal years, we should know by now that this anomaly sees the world in a different palette. As far as he is concerned, good and evil, right and wrong, are just suggestions.

The Senate – and this nation – missed out on De Lima’s voice, and we were left with a legislative body that, until now, is suffering from a poverty of great minds and courage – plus one funny mustache.

But I sense that things are starting to normalize, or as normal as they can get after the six abnormal years. Civil society is finding its voice again. The international community hailed De Lima’s release. But not Duterte; he is probably in his own alternate reality, still convinced that nightmares are the key to successful leadership.

I remember when they arrested her in 2017. It was like a bad movie where the villain wins, and we were just sitting there, asking, “Is this real life or a twisted episode of a soap opera?” 

They had it all planned out. The villain delivered a monologue: “I will investigate you, file charges against you, and if you dare pick a fight with me, you will lose.” I mean, what kind of leader in a democracy talks like that?

He actually put her behind bars before the investigation even started. He had a checklist: Step 1, make empty threats. Step 2, arrest without evidence. Step 3, pat yourself on the back for a job well done. I didn’t know our justice system had a “Fast Track to Injustice” lane, but there we were.

What gets me is how she was kept incommunicado for years. Limited visits, no communication devices – she was basically in a high-stakes game of confinement.

Politicians make promises, but usually, it’s about fixing roads or building schools, not threatening to ruin someone’s life. But then again, 2016 and the five years after that were a weird period in Philippine history.

The whole thing just unfolded, right there, smack in front of us. We were just sitting back, hands tied, watching as they took a wrecking ball to her reputation. Bam! They slapped a scarlet letter on her and then twisted the law into a weapon – a page ripped from an old, dusty playbook from the 17th century on how to shut up a woman for having a mind of her own. I mean, come on, it’s like history was on a loop, and they decided to hit rewind. Classic move, right?

They shamed her first with a sex video that never was – that was about as real as a kapre riding a tikbalang or Quiboloy ordering a halt to the movement of tectonic plates. Years later, we’re left with nothing but blurry screenshots because no one could really show that video.

De Lima’s story is like a cosmic prank. She got a VIP pass to the shady corridors of injustice, tap-dancing in the belly of the legal beast. It’s a classic mix-up where what would have been a normal road trip ended up in bureaucratic hell.

For nearly seven years, Leila de Lima, a former justice secretary, was stuck in legal limbo for what felt like forever. What a shame! If injustice were an Olympic sport, we’d have gold medals raining down on us.

Our justice system is more messed up than the rush hour traffic on EDSA, but in this chaos, we saw a glimmer of hope, a spark in the darkness, on November 13.

Here’s to De Lima, the heroine in this absurd play. May the puppeteers behind this mess get entangled in the vines of accountability. In the end, the house of cards built on lies is destined to crumble. Pastilan.Rappler.com

Herbie Gomez is Rappler’s Mindanao bureau head.

The views expressed by the writer are his own and do not reflect the views or positions of Rappler.

1 comment

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  1. ET

    Agree with Sir Herbie Gomez and if I may add – the Death-Threatening Eagle of Davao City comes from the parallel universe called: the “Universe of Chaos.”

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Herbie Gomez

Herbie Salvosa Gomez is coordinator of Rappler’s bureau in Mindanao, where he has practiced journalism for over three decades. He writes a column called “Pastilan,” after a familiar expression in Cagayan de Oro, tackling issues in the Southern Philippines.