MANILA – Neophyte Senator Leila de Lima lashed out on Tuesday at her critics and detractors who tried to malign her good name and reputation to stop her from pursuing a Senate investigation into the series of extrajudicial and vigilante killings that has marred the government’s intensified campaign against illegal drugs.
“I cannot stay silent in the face of all these blatant lies created in the backroom of a media strategy office suit. I will not fall without a fight,” De Lima said in her 15-page privilege speech at the Senate plenary hall.
De Lima, a former Justice secretary and Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson, specifically hit back at the individuals who vilified and labelled her as a drug lord coddler and protector.
“I have been ridiculed and called names in social media. Photos are photo-shopped, videos are spliced, lies are manufactured. The magnitude of the propaganda and misinformation is mind-boggling, considering that this is all directed at me. The lies are intended to show me as a protector of the Bilibid drug lords,” she said.
The lady senator also criticized House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for his plan to file a resolution calling for investigation of De Lima for her alleged role in the proliferation of drugs inside the National Bilibid Prison (NBP).
“It is an affront to the Senate as an institution committed by none other than the leader of its co-equal body in Congress,” De Lima said.
De Lima said she was the only Justice secretary since the 1986 EDSA Revolution who dared to eradicate the dominion of the drug lords inside the NBP.
“My defense against all this vilification is my untarnished record and reputation as a public servant before this demolition job was launched against me both in the social media and by the Solicitor General,” De Lima said, referring to Solicitor General Jose Calida who also plans to investigate the senator’s “rubbing elbows” with a convicted drug lord.
She said the attack against her is also an attack against the Senate as an independent institution.
De Lima said the prevailing “do-it-yourself justice” system carried out under the present administration’s war against illegal drugs has resulted to the unabated spate of extrajudicial killings and summary executions.
She added the latest brand of justice flagrantly disregards the basic rights to due process of the law of innocents and suspects alike as guaranteed to them under the Constitution.
“We have to continue opposing the murder of the innocents as well as that of the suspects. We must call for the accountability of state actors responsible for this terrifying trend in law enforcement, and the investigation of killings perpetrated by the vigilante assassins,” she said.
“In the campaign against criminality, we cannot applaud criminal methods merely because we are left unaffected. Life has more value than an accusation written on a piece of cardboard whether you are rich or a scum of the earth. Needless to say, all lives matter,” she said.
Based on the official records of the Philippine National Police, there are about 395 drug offenders who were killed in police operations from July 1 to Aug. 1.
De Lima, however, clarified that she is not against the intensified campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte against illegal drugs but “we cannot wage the war against drugs with blood.”
“We must wage this war against drugs. But there must be another way. There has to be another way. There must be a way other than this method that brings us to our collective descent into impunity, fear and ultimately, utter and complete inhumanity. Drugs destroy lives, but we need not destroy lives to destroy drugs,” De Lima said.
“I must admit, the public reaction to these executions is not in favor of those who oppose it. A 91 percent approval rating for the President and what he stands for is a formidable record. But we cannot base our reactions to these killings on the popularity of the President. Popular or not, murder must stop. S-T-O-P. Stop the killings now,” she added.
De Lima said her purpose of filing Senate Resolution No. 9 to investigate the spate of extrajudicial killings and summary executions is to legislate laws that will strengthen the fight against the drug menace.
“At higit sa lahat, palakasin pa ang system ng ating mga batas para matiyak ang pag-iral ng batas at paggalang sa karapatang pantao,” De Lima said.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte’s running mate in the last May 9 elections, stood up to ask for some questions but De Lima refused to yield.
Cayetano, however, took the opportunity to defend the administration’s intensified illegal-drug campaign against that of the previous administration of former President Benigno S. Aquino III.
“What is happening now is a better way than the past administration. There is no impunity here. President Duterte even warned police who will abuse their authority. President Duterte is our kakampi and not the pushers,” he said.
Cayetano has instead advised De Lima to legislate first a law that would improve the welfare of the policemen like increasing their salaries.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III agreed with De Lima that there must be another way to fight drug menace such as improving existing laws against illegal drugs and use of PhilHealth funds to help rehabilitation of drug dependents.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said it’s the justice system that should be corrected to punish the guilty and acquit innocents.
“The slow system of justice must be corrected. That’s why there is a frustration and an idea of a short cut,” Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan also proposed the convening of the Judiciary, Executive, Legislative Advisory and Consultative Council (JELAC) to address the slow justice system in the country.