LAST July 10, the Leila-de-Lima-for-senator campaign released a video ad in black and white that depicted her as a law enforcer who sent the corrupt to jail.

The commercial, which a critic said had a 1940s film noiresque look, showed in its first 30 seconds, scenes at a seedy bar with corrupt government officials talking of influence peddling and payoffs as they celebrated their power and ill-gotten fortune.

Pitch, reply

When they came out, de Lima, a shadowy figure in trench coat and umbrella accosted the group and, pulling a lever which turned up from nowhere, brought down an iron cage on the culprits. Then the voice-over: “Tumulong na magpakulong ng mga kriminal at corrupt na government officials” and the on-screen text: “Justice without fear or favor.”

Less than two weeks after that, Rodrigo Duterte’s camp released its spoof of the de Lima ad, showing a similar movie, with look-alike characters, but with the would-be senator similarly entrapped along with her cohorts.

Bad blood

Those suspicious of the president’s motive in prosecuting de Lima would cite that ad as evidence of bad blood between them.

There’s supreme irony in de Lima, as depicted in her political ad, selling herself as a tough DOJ law enforcer, and de Lima, as shown in current images of her arrest, as prime accused by the same department she used to head.

Used as defense

But Duterte’s reply ad last year, just before the elections, already foretold her fall. A political watcher noted a “deja vu.” But could Duterte at the time be telling the public what he’d do to de Lima if he’d become president? It wouldn’t be a feeling of a past experience but a sense that he told us so.

Personal motive in prosecuting de Lima wouldn’t matter if there is evidence of her alleged crimes. But she could use it, as she has done vigorously, as her defense: a victim of a vendetta, she said.

Which has complicated what would’ve been a simple criminal case.