MALACAÑANG on Friday welcomed the inclusion of President Rodrigo Duterte on Time magazine’s list of “The 100 Most Influential People” but questioned why Sen. Leila de Lima got into the roster.
The list released on Thursday placed Duterte under the “Leaders” category, while de Lima was listed among “Icons.”
“The fact remains that President Duterte is supported by majority of the Filipinos in his campaign against illegal hard drugs, crime and corruption,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
Abella however blasted how the piece on de Lima, written by former United States ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, ignored the circumstances that led to her detention on drug trafficking charges.
“In the case of Senator de Lima, Time conveniently failed to clarify that she was jailed not for her criticisms against the administration but because an independent court found probable cause in support of the criminal charges against her for alleged violation of the law on illegal drugs,” Abella said.
De Lima denies the charges, which she says were trumped up to silence her. The senator is being accused of getting money from illegal drug traders at the New Bilibid Prison when she was Justice secretary under the previous Aquino administration.
In her piece, Power noted that few had taken up de Lima’s cause.
“It is a disturbing testament to the current solidarity among strongmen and the global surge in impunity that de Lima’s cause has not been more embraced,” she said.
“And yet, even from prison, she continues to speak out against her President: ‘It’s not O.K. with me that we have a murderous psychopath occupying the highest post in the land,’” she added, quoting one of de Lima’s daily dispatches of handwritten notes from her cell.
Cesar Gaviria, the former president of Colombia who battled drug cartels, wrote the article on Duterte. Gaviria compared his drug war, which killed notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar, with Duterte’s bloody anti-narcotics campaign.
Earlier this year, Gaviria wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times warning against a violent approach to end the drug problem. Duterte responded by calling him an idiot.
Gaviria reiterated his points in the Time article.
“When I was President of Colombia, I was also seduced into taking a tough stance on drugs. But after spending billions, I discovered that the war was unwinnable and the human costs were devastating. The cure was infinitely worse than the disease,” Gaviria said.
He advised Duterte to treat the drug problem as a public health issue instead.
“There are solutions that work. Duterte could start by treating drugs as a health, human rights and development issue. He could prosecute the most violent criminals and provide treatment for users rather than condemn them to prison, or worse,” Gaviria said.
“There will always be drugs in the Philippines, whether the President likes it or not. The tragedy is that many more people are likely going to die as he learns this lesson,” he added.