Palace: Leila’s arrest not political persecution

MANILA – Malacañang slammed yesterday the claims of detained Sen. Leila de Lima and her supporters that the legislator’s arrest was a result of political persecution by the Duterte administration.

She is facing criminal charges, stressed Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, not political cases.

Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said De Lima’s arrest merely showed that “the law is enforced regardless of who the subject of a warrant of arrest is, whether the person is holding a high position in government or has an ordinary status in society.”

Former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile also admonished De Lima for trying to give political color to her arrest by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group yesterday.

“There’s no such thing as a political prisoner. You are a prisoner, period,” Enrile, who himself was previously arrested over allegations of corruption, said.

He cautioned De Lima, a former justice secretary, from making excuses about her arrest and to allow the courts to resolve her case.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno said there is no air-conditioned facility waiting for the senator at the Philippine National Police (PNP) custodial center in Camp Crame where she is temporarily held on drug-related charges.

“Respect. We will respect her position as senator in the same manner that we respected the positions of senators (Ramon Bong) Revilla, (Jinggoy) Estrada and Enrile,” Sueno said yesterday in Iloilo City.

The three senators were also taken to the PNP Custodial Center after they were indicted for plunder and for anti-graft violations before the Sandiganbayan in June 2014.

On fears for De Lima’s safety, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa has given assurance that the lawmaker will be safe and secure while inside the custodial center.

He encouraged her not to lose faith in the justice system as the “the Muntinlupa RTC (regional trial court) has now acted on the case.”

“The senator will be treated with fairness and accorded due process. She will have the opportunity to defend herself and prove her innocence … the moral arc is long but it always bends towards justice,” Abella added.

Former senator Jinggoy Estrada lashed out at De Lima for evading arrest Thursday night when she gave the runaround to police tasked to serve the warrant of arrest at her Parañaque residence.

Estrada questioned the propriety of using the Senate premises as a “sanctuary” or cover to evade arrest.

“Why do you have to seek refuge in the Senate? We never sought for refuge when you had us arrested. Who are you to demand where you want to be jailed? We never did that during your time,” Estrada said in a statement.

Estrada, Revilla and Enrile were arrested for non-bailable plunder charges after a probe led by De Lima, then the justice department chief.

“We surrendered even before the warrant of arrest was served. We went to Crame immediately. Can’t you do the same? Shame on you,” Estrada said.