Sleep well, Panelo advises De Lima
It was supposed to be a birthday greeting for Sen. Leila de Lima, but it sounded like an ominous warning.
“My birthday wish to the good senator is, I hope she sleeps soundly tonight—and thereafter,” presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said of President Rodrigo Duterte’s most vocal critic, who turns 57 today.
Panelo took note of Mr. Duterte’s statement that De Lima must be having a “nightmare” now, following his allegation that she was linked to the drug trade.
The President on Thursday came out with a matrix that supposedly showed the senator’s links to drug syndicates at New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
De Lima, who denied the President’s claims, said one of her wishes for her birthday was for Mr. Duterte to leave her alone.
But Panelo indicated that this may not be granted. “Leave her alone? It seems the President has not even started. It seems he has just given her a taste of what’s to come,” he told reporters.
On the take?
In linking the former justice secretary to the narcotics trade, the President alleged that De Lima was “on the take” and had allowed the proliferation of illegal drugs in NBP.
Mr. Duterte also claimed that De Lima’s driver, who was allegedly her lover, collected drug payoffs for her.
De Lima disputed the claims about her links to the illegal drug trade, and said she was willing to resign and be shot if there was real evidence of her alleged role. She also bewailed that her personal life was being dragged into the issue.
On Thursday, the senator said she also hoped to find a new love who could be with her through her ordeal.
Malacañang said that people named in the drug matrix shown by President Duterte could face criminal charges, “if and when” the information had been verified.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said yesterday that “drug-related graft” cases would be filed against those listed in the matrix, among them De Lima and Pangasinan Rep. Amado Espino Jr.
The information that the President disclosed had been verified as to the personalities, “but the other links, the so-called links are being finalized,” Abella said.
De Lima described the President’s matrix as “laughable” and “garbage,” saying it was not even clear about the roles of the people named in drug operations. She also noted that it contained grammatical errors.
Abella said Mr. Duterte’s matrix was based on “collective and collaborative intelligence,” adding that “he has certain basis which we are not privy to.”
Espino, in denying any drug links, pointed out that De Lima had filed cases against him and that they were never friendly.
To which Panelo responded: “It doesn’t follow. Even if you were rivals in some cases, you could be friendly in other matters.”
The presidential legal counsel also defended the matrix, saying that its grammatical errors would not change the fact of De Lima’s links to illegal drugs based on intelligence reports.
Panelo quoted Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aquirre as saying that they have witnesses against De Lima and were gathering more affidavits.
De Lima, who led a Senate inquiry into the extrajudicial killings of drug suspects, raised concerns about the spate of violence across the country and its possible disregard for human rights and due process.
As justice secretary in the Aquino administration, she also called out then Davao City Mayor Duterte for his alleged links to the Davao Death Squad.
Mr. Duterte said De Lima was the first to violate human rights when she aired allegations about his links to the vigilante group without having them substantiated.
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