Lawyer congratulates De Lima as she’s set to be Duterte’s ‘first political prisoner’
Sen. Leila de Lima considers herself the first political prisoner under the Duterte administration, according to Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, a human rights lawyer who chairs the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG).
Diokno spoke to reporters about this shortly after a judge of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court issued an arrest warrant on the neophyte lawmaker for allegedly orchestrating the drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison while she was justice secretary.
On hearing De Lima describe herself as the first political detainee of the administration, Chel Diokno said she congratulated her, as her case would emphasize how the current dispensation had been trampling on people’s rights.
But Diokno also called on the public to “stand up and make their voices heard” now that people’s rights are being placed in “jeopardy.”
Diokno, one of de Lima’s lawyers, had filed on her behalf a writ of habeas data to test the presidential immunity of President Rodrigo Duterte over his sexual harassment and threats against the senator.
Diokno is the son of the late nationalist and democracy icon, Sen. Jose “Ka Pepe” Diokno,” who was among the opposition leaders detained by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos when he declared martial law in September 1972.
The younger Diokno said De Lima’s arrest would certainly have a “chilling effect” on anyone who would oppose the policies of the administration.
“Some people will be more reluctant to voice out their opinion after this arrest,” he said. “Although personally, I would also say that, on the other hand, it may also spur other people to gain courage and start speaking out. If a senator of the republic can be arrested just like that, then all of our rights are in jeopardy and it’s about time that we stand up and make our voices heard.”
Diokno said De Lima’s case was atypical, where the charges were based on testimonies of convicted felons serving time at the NBP.
“We have a situation where supposedly because of the House (of Representatives) inquiry, evidence was produced,” he said. “But there are a lot of questions on how this came into being because here you have as main witnesses who are admittedly criminals, people who come from no less than the national penitentiary.”
“And in my experience as a lawyer, those kinds of witnesses are the least that we would want to believe,” he added. “And yet it would appear that on the basis of their say so a senator of the republic is being put in jail. That is very worrisome.”
Diokno, who admitted being “shocked and surprised” by the issuance of the warrant of arrest against de Lima, said that it still could be questioned.
“In the meantime while the warrant is there, she may have no choice but to agree to it,” he said. /atm
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