By Hannah L. Torregoza and AFP
Senator Leila de Lima, the highest-profile critic of President Duterte’s brutal drug war was arrested yesterday on drug trafficking charges.
She will be detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City, upon the orders of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero. Her former driver-lover and co-accused, Ronnie Dayan, was ordered detained at the Muntinlupa City Police detention cell at Laguerta, Tunasan, near the Hall of Justice.
Speaking to reporters before the arresting team from the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) placed her under their custody at the Senate, a defiant De Lima said she will remain a vocal critic of the Duterte administration and will fight the trumped up drug charges that the present administration has hurled against her. She vowed to continue her fight against a dictator, believing that truth and justice will prevail.
The PNP-CIDG served the arrest warrant on De Lima at the Senate where she surrendered.
De Lima said she has long prepared herself to be a political prisoner of the Duterte regime.
“Malalampasan ko rin po lahat na ito, na sa bandang huli lalabas po ang katotohanan at makakamit ko po ang hustisya (I will overcome this and in the end truth will be revealed and I will achieve justice),” De Lima said.
“Katulad po ng palagi kong sinasabi at inuulit ko po ngayon, inosente po ako (As I have always said and will say again, I am innocent),” she added.
De Lima was arrested on the strength of an arrest warrant issued by Judge Guerrero.
“There is no truth to the accusations that I benefitted from illegal drugs, that I received drug money, that I coddled and protected drug suspects. These are all lies,” she said.
“Lalabas ho ang katotohanan sa tamang panahon (The truth will come out at the right time),” she added.
If President Duterte and her critics think she would remain silent after she is in jail, De Lima said they are mistaken.
“It is my honor to be imprisoned for the things I am fighting for. Please pray for me,” De Lima, 57, said outside her Senate office where she had sought temporary refuge overnight after an arrest warrant was issued Thursday.
“They will not be able to silence me and stop me from fighting for the truth and justice and against the daily killings and repression by the Duterte regime.”
“What we have feared has come. My arrest is an appalling sign of the return of a power-hungry, morally bankrupt, and abusive government,” she said in a separate statement.
“From the very beginning, I knew that this regime would not seek true justice. The filing of criminal cases against me is only the fulfillment of Mr. Duterte’s fixation for revenge against me, because of my investigation of the Davao Death Squad when I was then the chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR),” she stressed.
If they think that by jailing her she would turn her back on her principles, they are mistaken, De Lima reiterated.
“Instead, they have encouraged me more to pursue truth and justice,” she said.
Guard fragile democracy
De Lima rallied her supporters and members of the Fourth Estate, the media, to make every effort to guard the country’s fragile democracy against attempts to promote the return to dictatorship.
“I call on the members of the Fourth Estate to guard our fragile democracy against attempts to curtail our rights and freedom, and against the return of dictatorship,” De Lima said.
The former Department of Justice (DOJ) secretary and Commission and Human Rights (CHR) chair further called on the people to pray for the country and to continue to remain vigilant.
“I urge people of conscience everywhere: Please pray for the Philippines. I ask you to remain vigilant and continue to fight, so that true justice and respect for human rights prevail,” she said.
“Let us not allow this administration to continue violating our Constitution, disrespecting our laws, and taking the lives of our countrymen,” she reiterated.
Not just for me – De Lima
In facing the drug charges hurled against her, De Lima said her fight is not all about her.
“This fight is not mine alone. This fight is our fight for the victims of government’s failed war on drugs, especially for 7-year-old Saniño Butucan of Cebu, 5-year-olds Danica May Garcia of Pangasinan and Francisco Manosca of Pasay City, and 4-year-old Althea Fhem Barbon of Negros Oriental. Perpetrators of these hideous crimes have no conscience; even worse than them are those in power who allow these to happen,” she said.
It was De Lima who opened the hearings on the rampant extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in light of Duterte’s drug campaign. She was later on ousted by her colleagues as head of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights after she presented Edgar Matobato, a confessed member of the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS).
De Lima said the recent recantation of retired Senior Police Officer 3 Arthur Lascañas, the President’s right-hand man in the DDS, who made a public confession about the killings they carried out upon the alleged orders of the then Davao City mayor has quashed any doubts on the veracity of the fact the President is a “murderer” and a “sociopathic serial killer.”
“With the revelation of Lascañas, there is no more doubt that our President is a murderer and a sociopathic serial killer. This is also the reason why we are experiencing all the madness in government under this regime that is being led by the number one criminal in the entire Philippines, if not in the whole world, none other than President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” De Lima said.
“Let’s not ask anymore how come there seems to be a reunion of questionable characters under the Duterte regime – from the Marcoses, to Arroyo, and up to Napoles, together with their lawyers and operators. Also, there are the main enforcers of President Duterte’s orders – Secretary Aguirre and Solicitor General Jose Calida who are among the abusive and arrogant officials in our government. Let’s no longer ask why, during the Duterte regime, all the criminals, the corrupt, the savages, and those with evil souls have returned and are thriving,” she said.
Meanwhile, Dayan turned emotional, shedding tears, as he bid his family goodbye before he was escorted from Urbiztondo, Pangasinan, to the Muntinlupa City RTC.
As his son Paul gave him a tight embrace, both cried and prayed for the Dayan patriarch’s safety. (With reports from Jonathan M. Hicap, Francis T. Wakefield, and Liezle Basa Iñigo)