AN EMOTIONAL Sen. Leila de Lima faced the media on Thursday and appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to give her a chance to defend herself from his personal attacks and spare other people from public humiliation.
De Lima, in a prepared statement, urged the President to listen to her side with an open mind before he continues his tirades.
“A chance for me to defend myself is the only thing that I’m asking for, especially in this situation where the President himself has admitted that he is my enemy and has been personally accusing me,” de Lima said in Filipino.
On Wednesday, Duterte blasted de Lima, a leading critic of his war against illegal drugs, calling her an “immoral woman.”
Duterte accused the lawmaker of having an illicit affair with her driver, who also allegedly collected money from drug syndicates to finance her senatorial campaign.
De Lima called on Duterte to spare her family, friends and former colleagues from attacks because they had done nothing wrong.
“If you are bent on destroying me, please have a decency to spare my colleagues, friends and family. Wala po silang kasalanan [They did nothing wrong],” the embattled senator said.
De Lima said words could not express what she felt after Duterte publicly linked her to illegal drugs.
“How does one defend oneself when the attacker is immune form suit, and has all the backing of executive power to support him in his personal attacks? This is no less than abuse and misuse of executive power,” the senator said.
De Lima however said that if the President thinks his attacks will convince her to stop next week’s Senate investigation into the extra-judicial killings of hundreds of drug suspects, “he can try until he finally silences me or the Senate.”
De Lima also revealed she knew of cases being prepared by the Duterte administration against her, and expressed readiness to answer all allegations.
The senator appealed to the President to put an end to “scare tactics” and “ridicule” and help bring back order through the observance of the rule of law and respect for fellow human beings.
“I have always been loyal to my oath as a public servant. I’m not the enemy here. Stop portraying me as one,” de Lima said.