By Getsy Tiglao
How easily Filipinos forget! Senator Leila de Lima is in jail because she is facing serious and credible drug charges. Those trying to twist the issue to make her out as a heroine should be examined for their own possible links to the drugs trade.
In late 2016, the House of Representatives Justice Committee heard hours upon hours of testimonies from more than 30 witnesses who connected De Lima to the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison when she still headed the Department of Justice.
Among those who testified were former colleagues of De Lima in the DOJ and prison officials. Several incarcerated drug lords also testified and submitted sworn affidavits that they raised millions of pesos for De Lima’s campaign to get a senatorial seat.
Those reading about this for the first time may be shocked, but yes, the Philippines’ primary prison was the drug lords’ headquarters for the shabu trade.
The NBP had also been dubbed the “Bilibid Hilton” as the moneyed inmates were allowed to build a recording studio, install saunas and swimming pool, bring in prostitutes and alcohol – all under the apparent knowledge of the DOJ under De Lima.
A scandalous situation like this could only have happened with the concurrence of corrupt officials from top to bottom, all making money with every little and big enabling act. This is why the first thing that the Duterte administration did upon assumption to power was to replace the discredited NBP security guards with elite policemen from the Special Action Force.
The new DOJ under Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II in February, 2017, also filed three drug charges against De Lima. These include violations of Section No. 5 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 that pertains to drug trafficking and criminal liability of government officials.
She is also accused of receiving bribes from the Bilibid drug lords in exchange for protection. One of the charges against her in the case pending before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court was amended to show a conspiracy to commit drug trading.
Those still unconvinced should look to the Supreme Court’s decision rejecting De Lima’s motion to recall her warrant of arrest issued by the regional court. Voting 9-6 the High Court also junked the senator’s plea to dismiss the drug charges against her. De Lima, of course, denies all that was said against her.
Contrary to the claims of the opposition, De Lima is able to avail of her full legal rights under the law. Sorry to say CNN, BBC, and other clueless Western media: De Lima is not a political prisoner but one who is facing criminal charges in collusion with drug lords and corrupt prison officials.
Western media should also know that De Lima has made full use of all the legal rights our laws allow and I daresay may be more, given the local system’s “kindness” towards high-profile prisoners.
De Lima is not in a regular jail but in Camp Crame. She has a bevy of lawyers and political supporters who regularly visit her. She is able to somehow talk to media and give daily statements as if she were still in her Senate office. So where is the dictatorship that politicized human rights groups are always talking about?
Frankly, De Lima’s statements to media smack of destabilization. And yet local newspapers print them up as if her sayings are gospel truth while minimizing government’s position on issues. Why is an accused drug coddler still allowed this kind of media access when other politicians who were jailed were not?
I’ve noticed, too, that local media are just lazily copying Western wire agencies penchant to highlight the anti-government position. For instance, in news items about De Lima the background line is always a jaundiced one – “the staunchest critic of Duterte.” Why can’t the background line be “the senator linked to the illegal drug trade” which sounds more true, is significant and newsworthy.
Local editors and reporters should remember that they are Filipinos first. There is nothing wrong with loving your country and protecting it from destabilizers and power-grabbers. The enemies of the state would love nothing more than to see Duterte fall so that they can install their puppet leaders in the seat of power.
While we’re on the subject of remembering why De Lima is in jail and rightly so – who can forget Ronnie Dayan, the senator’s former driver and lover? Dayan hid in the countryside for months, reportedly on advice of De Lima, before he was found by the police and brought before Congress.
Dayan testified before the justice committee that he indeed received money for De Lima – one time, even travelling all the way to Baguio with De Lima – to meet with suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa. The latter even had a picture taken with the senator in Burnham Park.
He also admitted under oath that he had a long-term relationship with Senator De Lima and had sexual relations with her, even though Dayan was married with children. Such intimacy over a seven-year period makes Dayan’s statement that he was the De Lima’s bagman more credible.
After Dayan’s testimony, De Lima finally admitted her affair with her driver. Morality aside, wasn’t there an element of sexual harassment in this relationship? De Lima was an authority figure with the power over her employee Dayan. Perhaps he couldn’t say no to his employer’s advances for fear of being fired from his job.
Imagine a reversed situation where a male senator is the one cohabiting with a married female employee. The uproar would have been tremendous and the male senator would face censure and most likely booted out of the Senate.
De Lima is not a heroine and neither is she a prisoner of conscience. Anyone who has forgotten the drug charges against her just need to watch the YouTube videos on the House hearings about the drug trade inside Bilibid Prison. You’ll be shocked to learn the details and will ask why this wasn’t stopped by the previous government.
Let’s not be naïve – these drug cartels have deep financing, with vast networks and organizations. Their business must be suffering under the anti-drugs campaign of President Duterte that they’re using all the tricks in the media book in order to have their former protector released from jail.