De Lima and the rule of law


FAIR COMMENT | Alito Malinao

A few days ago, the so-called Committee for the Freedom of Leila M. de Lima, placed a full-page advertisement in the major dailies calling for the release from detention of Senator Leila de Lima.

The advertisement, in the form of a manifesto, entitled “Statement of Indignation” over the four years of “unjust and indefinite detention” of Senator de Lima, carried a list of hundreds of names of leaders, activists and organizations throughout the world.

De Lima, a former justice secretary and a critic of President Duterte was arrested on February 24, 2017 for alleged drug trafficking charges.

We could not ascertain who paid the millions spent for the ad which was timed to appear on the fourth year of detention of the senator at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame. The names of those who supposedly endorsed the manifesto were so small that one would need a microscopic lens to read the theme.

The manifesto says: “We decry the systematic weaponization of the law and the Philippine justice system through the acts of intrusion and intimidation resulting in the unconstitutional ouster of the chief justice and the undeterred series of killings of judges and lawyers.”

Obviously, the chief justice that de Lima is referring is former Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno and not the late Chief Justice Renato Corona because it was de Lima, under the behest of former President Benigno Aquino III, who instigated the filing of impeachment charges against Corona that led to his ouster.

If Sereno’s ouster was unconstitutional, what about Corona’s?

As a lawyer, De Lima is supposed to respect the rule of law in resolving the cases filed in court. But De Lima and all those behind the manifesto must have forgotten when De Lima, as justice secretary, ordered the removal in November 2011 of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport where she was about to board a plane to seek medical treatment abroad.

At the height of her power, De Lima willfully dashed the rule of law since Mrs. Arroyo was given a temporary restraining order by the Supreme Court and allowed to travel abroad for treatment of her hypoparathyroidism and metabolic bone disorder.

De Lima sent immigration agents backed by the police to return Arroyo to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center where she languished for the next five years.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, De Lima is crying injustice. Her manifesto says: “Injustice to Senator Leila de Lima is injustice to the Filipino people.” How easily has she forgotten the injustice that has been done to President Arroyo?

As everybody knows, all the trumped-up charges against Arroyo were dismissed by the Supreme Court. De Lima has her day in court and she has to keep her faith in our judicial system no matter how slow it is, since she is a lawyer and a former justice secretary.

Let the rule of law prevail and no manifestos or “statements of indignation” can alter this. In fact, one of the cases filed against her has already been dismissed and the others could follow just as the cases against Arroyo have been all dismissed but after five years and under a new administration.
As they say: “Ang buhay ay weather-weather lang.”

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