THE most famous public reference to “decency” was not an appeal but an accusation. Joseph Welk, a lawyer hired by the US army for the Sen. Joseph McCarthy hearings on communists allegedly infesting the government, said it: “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

As McCarthy kept battering an army officer whom he tagged as a communist, during a 1954 Senate hearing, Welk interrupted, saying, “Until this moment, senator, I think I never really caught your cruelty or recklessness. Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

Here in this country, more than six decades later, it’s a senator, Leila de Lima, who’s being battered from the so-called bully pulpit of the president. And she’s sounding a plea: “Have the decency, Mr. President.”

Duterte has linked her to illegal drugs, accusing her of keeping a driver for a lover who, he alleges, collects pay-offs from drug traffickers.

Lawyer Welks battled a US senator’s witch-hunt.

De Lima is up against a president’s naming-and-shaming sortie.


De Lima enjoys parliamentary immunity as senator only when she does her job in Congress while the president cannot be sued during his term. He may be impeached for specific offenses but his coalition party controls Congress.

It’s a lopsided match, not even the David-Goliath sort of disparity.

De Lima can only fling a feeble insult, which Duterte brushes aside: “if I’m lying, you can change me.”

How is that done? The senator doesn’t know the evidence against her. Her love life may fall under what she admits as “snippets of truth.” But she stoutly denies the matter of accepting drug money, which is the core of the assault.

De Lima can only plead “have decency” and hope something will come out of it. In Welk’s case, that helped terminate McCarthy and his witch-hunt. Small chance it will happen that way here.