De Lima to Duterte: ‘It’s reckoning time’
Former Sen. Leila de Lima issued what may be her most pointed warning yet to former President Rodrigo Duterte since being released on bail, as she spoke of plans to file charges against him and other personalities behind her “persecution” and detention for almost seven years on charges of drug trafficking.
Addressing Duterte in an online interview by Inquirer.net on Friday, De Lima said: “Just face the music. We all know about you being behind those killings; we all know about you being behind my persecution.”
“So, it’s reckoning time,” she stressed.
De Lima’s petition for bail was granted on Monday after Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Judge Gener Gito ruled that the testimonies of nine prosecution witnesses presented by the Department of Justice were “not sufficient to establish conspiracy” between her and her co-accused.
Gito was hearing the third and last drug case against the former senator, the first two having ended in her acquittal.
Speaking as a guest on the program “INQside Look,” De Lima responded to Duterte’s recent remarks made on his weekly program “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” at SMNI News Channel, a network owned by his “spiritual adviser” Apollo Quiboloy.
Duterte then said that De Lima and the International Criminal Court (ICC) should just “band together” and that he would just “let” the public be the judge on whether her bail was justified.
‘Lonely’ ICC cell
In jest, De Lima said her “persecutor” probably could use a companion once inside the “lonely cell (of) the ICC.”
“Maybe he just missed me?” she added.
Duterte is being investigated in the ICC for allegedly committing crimes against humanity in the pursuit of his bloody antidrug crackdown that claimed the lives of thousands of suspected drug users and peddlers, mostly in poor communities. The deaths were attributed to either questionable police operations or vigilante-style killings.
De Lima expressed hopes that the Marcos administration would revive the country’s membership in the ICC after Duterte ordered its withdrawal in 2019.
“How about those in the higher levels? Those behind the killings? Nobody is investigating them, not Congress, not the Ombudsman, not the (National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police), or any other investigative unit of the government,” De Lima said.
‘In the pipeline’
With the ICC empowered to do this, she added, the Marcos administration should change its current position of noncooperation in the international court’s investigation of Duterte and the other enforcers of the drug war.
Plans to sue Duterte and other officials tied to her legal ordeal are “in the pipeline,” De Lima said. “It’s almost a certainty or even a certainty that [cases against them] would be initiated. It’s just a matter of (deciding) the proper timeline for that, the proper course of action, the exact cases to be filed against him and the others who are responsible in my persecution.”
One of De Lima’s defense lawyers, Dino de Leon, said they were “considering” all officials involved in the buildup of cases filed against her.
“For the respondents, we are considering all known authors of this political persecution,” De Leon said in a text message to the Inquirer. “They certainly know who they are.”
De Leon said Duterte’s then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II may be included as a respondent, calling him “one of the chief authors of this greatest frame-up in Philippine history.”
“We will consider all legal remedies available to us to hold them into account, including (the filing of) criminal, civil and administrative cases,” he said.
Future in politics
As to her other plans now that she is free, De Lima said she had yet to give any serious thought to her future in politics.
It would require “a lot of thinking,” she said, but she and other opposition figures would have a meeting in the next few days.
“I’m not sure if plans [for the next elections] will be discussed,” De Lima said. “On my part, it’s not on my mindset … whether it’s 2025 or any other subsequent elections because I have yet to determine whether I’ll be going back to public service.”
Her meeting on Thursday with former Vice President Leni Robredo, De Lima said, was just about catching up and asking about Robredo’s plans once she returns to Manila.
Rebuilding a life
For now, De Lima said, she would just like to build her life “all over again” and her “priorities” include making up for lost time with her two children—Vincent Joshua and Israel.
“And my grandchildren, although they got to see me once in a while when I was in detention,” she said.
There are IDs to be renewed —her passport and driver’s license had expired during her years at Camp Crame—documents to be sorted, and cherished books to be organized after they kept her company in her cell.
“[There are] many invitations for get-togethers, small meetings, small celebrations and, of course, speaking engagements,” De Lima said.