NO tears should fall, no sad songs should be sung for the arrest of Senator Leila de Lima for allegedly receiving drug money from convicts while she was the Secretary of Justice. She’s full of fight and I’m sure detention won’t make her waver in opposing how President Rodrigo Duterte is waging a bloody war against illegal drugs.
As expected, De Lima is already painting herself as a victim of political vendetta for her unrelenting attempts to link President Duterte to extra-judicial killings and to the Davao Death Squad when he was mayor of that city for more than 20 years. Right after his proclamation, President Duterte said that he would “destroy” her. Well, he’s a man of his word and the filing of the charges against her by the Department of Justice could be in consonance with that vow.
I must confess I was surprised when the DOJ filed against her the unbailable charge of allegedly receiving drug money from leaders of prison gangs in Muntinlupa. Right after the protracted inquiry by the House committee on justice into the proliferation of drug trading at the New Bilibid Prisons, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said they didn’t have enough evidence against her.
Aguirre’s admission was expected. At the House hearings, the resource persons-convicts presented by Aguirre, and whom he cross-examined with the congressmen as mere listeners, said they did not see any drug money being given directly to De Lima by her alleged bagmen. The only ones who made such a claim was former Bureau of Prisons Officer-in-Charge Rafael Ragos who was sacked by De Lima, and an agent of the National Bureau of Investigation who acted as his driver. Ragos testified that he delivered P5 million to De Lima at her Parañaque residence in 2012.
Ragos is now a co-accused of De Lima while the convicts who allegedly gave money for her through her bagmen weren’t included in the charge sheet. They had agreed to testify at the House in exchange for immunity from being charged for whatever they’d say. They’ll most probably end up as state witnesses against her.
Another co-accused is Ronnie Dayan, her former driver-security turned lover. The House probers got virtually nothing from him on claims that he was also her bagman because the congressmen were more interested in knowing his romantic liaisons with her.
The absence of a money trail leading to De Lima and Aguirre’s previous admission that they lacked evidence against her were the main reasons why this sudden turnaround by Aguirre surprised me. Now, De Lima has been arrested. I strongly doubt that the Senate would pass a resolution asking the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court that the Senate be allowed to keep her under its protective custody so she can continue with her duties as senator.
She’s now suffering a fate much worse than those named and shamed by President Duterte as “narco-generals.” None of these retired police and military officers have been charged by the administration several months after the President had named them. In a sense, she’s much luckier than the thousands of alleged drug pushers who were killed while resisting arrest. There would be a great howl of protests should she get killed by lawmen claiming self-defense.
The legislature needs a strong opposition voice to speak against any fascist tendencies. A body made up of “yes men” cannot effectively carry out its role in the checks and balances that are the hallmarks of a republican system of government. Definitely, De Lima unshackled could fill this role, although her voice could be shrill at times.
That said, and separating this issue, I reiterate what I have written a number of times: I find it very difficult to sympathize with her. No, I won’t shed a tear should she be a victim of political vendetta. Not after she ignored a ruling of the Supreme Court allowing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to get medical treatment abroad. She was instrumental in filing non-bailable charges against Arroyo. All of these charges were later thrown to the wastebasket where they properly belonged but not before inflicting inhuman treatment on GMA.
Oh yes, De Lima also played a leading role in the charging and eventual conviction of Janet Lim Napoles for the illegal detention of Benhur Luy. Why’s it that I suspect this was just a ploy to keep Napoles from revealing everything that she knows about the misuse of pork barrel and of the Malampaya Fund during the administration of BS Aquino The Last?
Sing, Napoles, sing!
The latest administration move to revisit the conviction of Napoles for illegal detention is most welcome if it would lead to a full revelation of the personalities involved in the plunder of government funds. Solicitor General Jose Calida has already hinted that the pillage of the people’s money could involve persons higher than the senators.
Senate hearings in the past administration shielded BS Aquino and Budget Secretary Butch Abad. Surely, they had knowledge, if not a hand, in the release of pork barrel funds to fictitious non-government organizations for ghost projects. There never was a complete accounting except when it involved political enemies of the previous administration.
Many are certainly desirous of hearing Napoles finally singing. I’m sure a number of leading characters in the previous administration are now shaking in fear. And if they’ll also be charging “political vendetta,” they won’t be getting much public sympathy either.
“Karma” is more like it.