Proof fake like his wig, says De Lima
THIS time around, Sen. Leila de Lima had her inquisitor, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, by the short hairs.
“Secretary Aguirre’s alleged evidence against me is like his toupee, his wig—fake and cosmetics only… Nothing’s authentic,” De Lima said in a statement on Tuesday.
The senator is the subject of an ongoing House hearing presided by Aguirre for her alleged links to the illegal drug trade in New Bilibid Prison (NBP) when she was justice secretary.
Among the evidence that Aguirre presented to pin down
De Lima, a staunch critic of the extrajudicial killings attributed to President Duterte’s total war on drugs, were the testimonies of several high-profile convicts, including those whom De Lima had transferred to the National Bureau of Investigation jail after a surprise NBP raid yielded guns, cash and other high-value items in their luxurious cells.
An exasperated De Lima later faced the media and took her personal dig at Aguirre even further. If the justice secretary cannot prove his allegations, he should take off his toupee, she dared him.
Said the senator: “The dummy accounts that they’re citing… If those accounts are mine and only in someone else’s name, please tell these banks to freeze them. But I know the banks will not do that because those accounts are not mine,” she told reporters.
“That’s my challenge to him. Ipapatanggal ko sa kanya yung peluka niya kung hindi niya magawa iyan (I will ask him to take off his wig if he can’t do that),” she added.
Aguirre did not split hairs over De Lima’s reference to his wig or respond to her challenge. Instead, he assailed the senator for “running out of arguments.”
“She should substantiate her accusations because she doesn’t have a shred of evidence. She who claims must prove. Where is your proof? Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch,” he said.
While she described Aguirre’s hair and his evidence as fake, “what is real” are the killings that have become part of the government’s war on drugs, De Lima said.
“What is tragic is that these killings continue unabated. And the criminals, including these so-called vigilantes, are getting bolder, while the victims are getting younger,” the senator said.
De Lima said Aguirre “should instead focus efforts on investigating and prosecuting the syndicates—the real culprits—who force minors to go into drug pushing.”
Aguirre, De Lima’s schoolmate at San Beda College’s Law School but years ahead of her, has of late become the administration’s lead inquisitor against the junior lawmaker.
De Lima has become Mr. Duterte’s most vocal critic at the Senate, who had linked him to the Davao Death Squad when he was Davao City mayor and she was chair of the Commission on Human Rights.
For weeks now, Aguirre and De Lima have been engaged in a fierce public exchange, with Aguirre claiming to possess evidence that would prove the senator’s links to the drug trade at NBP when she was justice chief, an allegation first aired by Mr. Duterte himself in August.
Since then, the administration has released a series of alleged evidence against De Lima: a purported matrix that the senator had dismissed as the work of a grade schooler, testimonies of high-profile convicts claiming that she took drug money as justice secretary, and, most recently, purported dummy bank accounts where De Lima allegedly hid millions in drug payoffs.
Aguirre’s witness also released De Lima’s phone number and home address during the televised hearings that, according to the senator, resulted in thousands of menacing text messages and death threats.
She had to look for another place, she said, as she no longer felt safe in her house nor did she want to put her neighbors in peril.
De Lima was also ousted as chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights investigating extrajudicial killing shortly after she presented confessed hit man Edgar Matobato, whose testimony accused President Duterte of masterminding and committing summary killings during his term as Davao City mayor.
On Monday, the President himself asked if NBP inmate Jaybee Sebastian was De Lima’s “sexual asset,” adding that he had enough evidence to send the senator to jail.
De Lima decried the sexual innuendoes used by Mr. Duterte in his tirades against her. “Why is the President so fixated on my sexual life?” she asked.
“That (accusation that) I used to go to the ‘kubol’ (private quarters) of Jaybee Sebastian? That is a big lie. And staying there for several hours? They are making me look like a sexually prolific woman,” De Lima said, denying the allegations anew and describing them as “so, so foul.”
She expressed “pity” for the President, and said “evil men and women” around him were fueling his deep-rooted vitriol against her, while demeaning him and the Office of the President in the process.
“I have been severely abused verbally because there are those egging him on, feeding him these lies about my alleged drug links,” she said.
“They exploited the President’s personal vendetta against me to the hilt, and now it is the President who is being damaged. I am not the one being damaged here,” she added. With a report from Tetch Torres-Tupas, Inquirer.net
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