Emotional De Lima calls Duterte tirades ‘character assassination’
MANILA, Philippines — On the verge of tears, Sen. Leila de Lima lamented on Wednesday, the President’s latest tirade against her, calling it an ill-timed “character assassination” just a few days before her committee formally began its investigation into the spate of deaths amid the administration’s brutal drug war.
“Somebody told me that just now. It’s very surprising. My first reaction now [is] I don’t want to dignify that,” De Lima told reporters at the Senate session hall, during a break in Wednesday’s proceedings.
“It’s so foul, it’s character assassination. We are both professionals, the President and I. We are both public servants. I hope he doesn’t resort to those foul means. To me, that’s very foul,” said the neophyte lawmaker, her voice trembling.
An emotional De Lima agreed to briefly speak to reporters after receiving word about Duterte’s latest comments, ironically just after jubilation at the Senate over the arrival of Olympic silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz.
In his remarks at a public event of the Philippine National Police at Camp Crame, Duterte blasted a lady Senator for being an “immoral woman,” even accusing her of adultery with her driver. The comments, directed at a Senator who was critical of government, were apparently in reference to De Lima, the President’s staunchest critic in the chamber.
After awarding medals to police officials and policemen who performed well in fighting crime, the President alleged that the lady government official’s driver was not only her lover but her collector or bagman of drug protection money.
Duterte did not name the lady government official but he recalled that she once investigated him when he was mayor of Davao City on his alleged links to the vigilante group, Davao Death Squad. He said he was still keeping a CD of that lady official publicly proclaiming that she would prove his connection to the vigilante group.
Senator De Lima investigated Duterte on the Davao Death Squad connection when she was still Department of Justice secretary
De Lima hoped the President first checked his information before making public accusations.
“Wherever that came from, I hope it’s double checked. I hope the source is verified, where it came from… That’s really foul. I don’t want to dignify it,” said a somber De LIma.
Asked what she made of the timing of the President’s remarks, De Lima said: “I don’t know what their agenda is. They’re resorting to character assassination. That is a very clear case of character assassination.”
“And I did not expect the President to do that. That’s the truth,” she said, of the man who stopped to shake her hand at the hall of the Congress just before his first State of the Nation Address on July 25.
In her privilege speech on Aug. 2, De Lima spoke of an apparently coordinated attack to destroy her as she pursued her human rights advocacy amid the President’s drug war.
Speaking to the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday, De Lima expressed deep hurt for all the attacks against her, including those from the President’s supporters on social media.
“I try to ignore them because I don’t want to ruin my day. I don’t engage them,” she said, baring that she has also of late been receiving “vile” texts apart from foul attacks on Twitter and Facebook.
“I don’t respond to any of those. I ignore them. The best antidote is to completely ignore them. But it doesn’t mean I am not hurting. I am human,” she said.
De Lima said she wanted to cry when she delivered her debut privilege speech last two weeks ago but “I controlled myself. I don’t want to ever cry publicly.”
She said even her family has been hurt, including the eldest of two sons and her eldest grandchild, both special children.
“My eldest is special, he is autistic. And then my eldest grandchild is also autistic, they’re special children. In all of these that’s been happening, I always think of them. They’re hurting,” she told Inquirer editors and reporters.
Through all the attacks, De Lima said she just focused on “the words of encouragement, support and trust from people who matter,” among them former Supreme Court justices. SFM
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