I STRONGLY disagree with the Duterte regime’s propaganda that Sen. Leila de Lima is being prosecuted, not persecuted. Here are my reasons:
1. President Duterte cannot forgive the lady senator for the latter’s audacity to stand up against the president’s bloody war on drugs even while he was still the mayor of Davao City.
As chair of the Human Rights Commission, she had the courage to investigate the Davao Death Squad (DDS). When Duterte became president, de Lima caused the Senate investigation of the extra-judicial killings (EJKs) of the poor victims of the drug war.
What heightened the President’s anger against de Lima was when she presented Edgar Matobato who directly implicated the President with the DDS of which he was a member. Duterte’s reaction in Davao City was “I will destroy her in public.”
2. In December 2016, three complaints were filed against de Lima with the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ accepted jurisdiction over them even if it was against the law. The law is very clear that all cases against high-ranking public officials should be filed with the Ombudsman. The case had to be accepted by the DOJ being the alter ego of the President, instead of being investigated by then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales whose independence the President cannot question.
3. Orders of arrest were then issued with no clear findings of probable cause. De Lima went to the Supreme Court (SC) for relief but the SC ruled 9 to 6 that the arrest orders were justified.
4. Many times, President Duterte proudly announced: “I will see to it that de Lima will rot in jail”. The orchestrated persecution of the lady senator has so far been successful. De Lima has been detained for almost three years on trumped-up charges based on the perjured affidavits of convicted felons, some of whom de Lima prosecuted while she was secretary of justice.
So, when the full force and might of the Duterte government (executive, legislative and judiciary) are unleashed on a hapless Duterte critic, who is that well-meaning citizen who can say that she is not a victim of political persecution?
The Duterte government’s persecution of the senator and the EJKs of drug suspects constitute the grossest injustice and violation of human rights which are universally recognized. Our country is one of the signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
National sovereignty is neither an issue nor a defense as shown by the fact that President Duterte is now accused in the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
The US earlier approved an amendment to the appropriations bill that allowed the state department to ban the entry of Philippine officials involved in de Lima’s “wrongful detention.”
It is tragic and hypocritical for Duterte and his minions to shout for Philippine sovereignty in the case of de Lima when it cannot whimper a protest when Chinese vessels occupy our islands in the West Philippine Sea.