Leila in high spirits, blasts gov’t from cell

Sen. Leila de Lima during the Walk for Life march

MANILA – Sen. Leila de Lima continued to speak out against the Duterte administration, even from “behind bars.”
De Lima released a statement yesterday on the commemoration of the 31st anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution.

She denounced the moves by the Duterte administration to belittle the spirit of EDSA with its actions that go against the principles of democracy.

Apart from threatening to declare martial law, De Lima pointed out Duterte has also openly supported the killings of thousands of people as part of the government’s war on drugs.

“The dreadful truth is that in the past seven months of the Duterte regime, more people have been killed compared to the 14 years of military rule under the Marcos regime,” De Lima said in Filipino.

De Lima said the actions of the President are befitting that of a dictator, something that cannot be left unchecked. If the President is allowed to continue on this path, De Lima aired her concerns about what would happen to the country.

“Let us remember, if there was no People Power, we won’t have a democracy, we won’t have real freedom,” she said.
The freedom the country enjoys right now, De Lima said, would not have been achieved if the Filipino people just stayed silent and indifferent when all the corruption and abuses were being committed.

“Whatever your status in life, if you’re a government official, a member of media or just an ordinary citizen, the call is clear: in the midst of darkness, let us ignite the spirit of EDSA. Together let us stand up against the repressive regime and dictatorship and join hands in fighting for the truth and justice in our country,” De Lima said.

After spending her first night in detention, De Lima remained in high spirits and was happy to receive visitors, according to Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairman Chito Gascon.

Gascon, along with CHR commissioners Karen Gomez-Dumpit and Roberto Cadiz, visited De Lima yesterday at her detention facility at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame.

“We inquired on the circumstance of her detention,” Gascon said in a text message to The STAR.

“Offhand, the general conditions of her custodial detention are adequate. Senator De Lima said that she was expecting worse and did not complain,” he added.

Gascon, who just arrived from a human rights summit in Switzerland, said the head of the CHR detention visitorial division who accompanied them to Camp Crame would come up with a more detailed report on the situation of the senator.

The 1987 Constitution grants the CHR the power to exercise visitorial powers over penal facilities.

Gascon said De Lima will request for a laptop so she can continue with her responsibilities as a senator while in detention.

“Her lawyers will pursue remedies in court… We are concerned for her health and safety,” he added.

Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon said De Lima could continue her job as a lawmaker since she is not suspended.

Drilon said De Lima should be able to hold meetings and even conduct committee hearings in her detention facility.
The only limitation, however, is that she cannot cast her vote on the approval of bills and other issues brought before the Senate since it is required for her to be physically present at the Senate, Drilon said.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV recalled how he was able to perform his duties as senator while in detention.

Trillanes was detained for seven years for his role in the Oakwood Mutiny in 2003.

While in detention, Trillanes managed to run for and win a seat in the Senate in the 2007 elections without going out to campaign.

“Initially, I could only file bills/resolutions and issue press statements. But during the Aquino administration, I was allowed to conduct committee hearings inside the Crame custodial center,” he said.

While De Lima could enjoy the same privileges that he had when he was in detention as a senator, Trillanes said it would all depend on the whims of the administration.

Before she was arrested on Friday, De Lima reportedly wanted to turn herself in and be confined in a military stockade.

But her efforts were immediately rejected by the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), sources said.

Sources said an emissary relayed De Lima’s request about her intention to the surrender to the military once a warrant for arrest was issued.

“Her request to surrender to the AFP, instead of giving up to the PNP, was relayed to the military leadership last Monday,” an official said.

De Lima reportedly wanted to be confined at a military facility in Camp Aguinaldo since she feared for her safety under the custody of the PNP at Camp Crame.

“She doesn’t want to trust her safety to the police,” the source said.

AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año rejected De Lima’s request in a bid to shield the military from being dragged into the controversy, the source said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, however, believes De Lima would be safe at the PNP Custodial Center where she has female police personnel guarding her at all times.

Lacson said De Lima should relish the attention that is being given to her right now because in the weeks and months to come, she would start to feel how lonely it is to be isolated from the rest of the country.

“While the days go by, it would start to get lonely. Fewer guests would go and visit and, in the end, all you would have is your family. That is the sad fact,” he said.

Lacson also advised De Lima to stop pursuing her arguments on jurisdiction because the law is clear as far as cases on illegal drugs is concerned.

According to Lacson, Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act is clear that exclusive jurisdiction is given to the regional trial courts when it comes to drug-related offenses.

“So if they continue to question the jurisdiction of the RTC, they will lose because there is no basis in law,” he said.

The camp of De Lima has argued the Office of the Ombudsman should handle her case because the alleged crime she committed was when she was still the secretary of justice.

Prosecutors alleged De Lima, while she was justice secretary under former president Benigno Aquino III, received bribes from detained drug lords to finance her senatorial campaign.

De Lima has denied the charges, which she said were part of an attempt by President Duterte to muzzle critics of his crackdown on illegal drugs, which has left more than 7,000 people dead.

De Lima has a long-standing rift with Duterte, whom she accused of leading a vigilante group that carried out summary killings in Davao City when he was mayor.

Duterte in turn accused De Lima of being a narco-politician who used the illegal drug trade to finance her run for a Senate seat.

De Lima, a former CHR chief, surrendered to authorities on Friday after the Muntinlupa City court issued an arrest warrant.

She claimed being a victim of political persecution.