Focus on Leila De Lima
“Like going for a drive, stepping out of your car and slowly realizing you’re in the Twilight Zone,” Sen. Leila de Lima said of the “crass” and “bizarre” way she has been pilloried by several officials for her alleged links to the illegal drug trade in the country’s national prison.
“The things that are happening, words that are being said, the way in which they are being said, the shameless lack of decency in the rhetoric, the blatant character assassination—it’s surreal that people can still get away with that behavior at this day and age, in this planet,” De Lima said.
Resigning had entered her mind, she admitted, adding that opting out might divert public attention from her alleged list of bagmen-lovers, to the real issues like extrajudicial killings, poverty and the traffic crisis. But the neophyte senator said giving up might do the democracy more harm than good.
“I’m in fighting mode,” De Lima said, responding to the Inquirer’s questions through e-mail.
In recent weeks, the senator and former justice secretary has been the subject of a House hearing led by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II that saw a parade of drug convicts and criminals pinning her down for allegedly receiving billions in drug money that she reportedly used for her senatorial campaign. To establish her intimate relationship with a former driver who was allegedly also her bagman, the hearing also threatened to show a sex video of the couple, which did not materialize.
Davao Death Squad
President Duterte himself publicly vowed to “bring (De Lima) down publicly” in one of his speeches shortly before the alleged drug links were dredged up. As chair of the Commission on Human Rights, De Lima had previously linked then Davao City Mayor Duterte to Davao Death Squad.
She has denied the drug links and the alleged list of boyfriends, declaring emotionally at one point: “Stop this! Arrest me now!”
She explained on Saturday: “I can’t say that I am not affected about everything that is being said about me—not so much as it hurts me, but because it hurts the people who care for me. I signed for this—they didn’t. So for that, I feel bad.”
Though she may be up against an entire administration, the senator credits her battle endurance to faith and fellow Filipinos.
“Aside from my family, friends and supporters, I primarily draw strength from my faith in a higher power and a higher purpose,” said De Lima, a mother of two.
She has always relied on such omniscient power, she said. “People may call that God, the Karmic powers of the Universe, or Destiny…whatever it may be, I draw power from my faith that everything happens for a reason, and that reason is to somehow lead me to be a better and stronger person than I was before,” De Lima said.
“In that sense, I also draw strength from the Filipino people—believe it or not, whether or not they support me or bash me. Because I took an oath to defend their rights, not just the rights of the people who voted me into office… They are part of that higher purpose,” she said.
Added De Lima: “There is some comfort and some sense of accomplishment in being able to say that, though you malign me and do not appreciate what I do—I will still defend you,” De Lima said.
While “being lynched” for doing her job, De Lima remains hopeful that justice will eventually prove her right, and that her detractors will “eventually snap out of it.”
“Anything is possible. But, to be honest, I think it would take a miracle to make these people admit that they were wrong about me and how they treated me,” De Lima said.
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