MANILA – Sen. Leila de Lima has just marked her sixth month in detention, and it’s time for her peers to also take up the cudgels for her and help secure her freedom from unjust persecution for drug-related charges, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said Wednesday.
In a privilege speech, Trillanes reviewed the details of the government’s case against de Lima, who he said was apparently targeted by the Duterte administration for any of three reasons:
• first, she had initiated, during her stint as Commission on Human Rights chair, the investigation of then-Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s involvement in the Davao Death Squad;
• second, she had initiated, as then chair of the Senate Justice committee, an inquiry into the exttra-judicial killings in the Duterte administration’s vaunted war on drugs;
• third, persecuting de Lima would have a chilling effect on all other critics of the administration.
In a privilege speech, Trillanes also listed what he called glaring gaps in the testimonies of the resource persons trotted out by the Department of Justice against de Lima in congressional hearings–claims that were subsequently mirrored in the formal charges filed by DOJ before the courts.
Trillanes said he is convinced all the allegations linking de Lima to the prison drug trade during her term as Justice secretary in the previous administration, are false.
He pointed out that all of the charges against de Lima re based solely on the testimonies of convicted inmates at the New Bilibid Prisons, who are vulnerable to coercion and manipulation by government.
Most of the allegations are “scripted” and contradictory, added Trillanes.
In exchange for their testimonies against de Lima, Trillanes said Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre had guaranteed better treatment for them in detention – with amenities such as airconditioning and access to gadgets normally not accessible to prisoners.
Trillanes likewise noted that the inmates had previously been sent an ominous signal by the powers that be about how refusal to tesify could have dire consequences: as when inmate Jaybee Sebastian was stabbed in jail when he initially declined to testify. Another convicted drug lord was stabbed dead in that incident.
Meanwhile, Trillanes also played down the significance of the photograph shown in congressional hearings, showing then-DOJ chief de Lima with drug lord Kerwin Espinosa at Burnham Park in Baguio.
It was obvious, said Trillanes, the picture was taken casually, one of those solicited by ordinary people of famous figures or celebrities they see in public places.
The senator found it inconceivable of a public officer to have his photo taken with someone he knew to be a drug lord.
Apart from the controversial testimonies, not a single gram of illegal drugs was found on de Lima, Trillanes noted.
Thus, her case bears all the hallmarks of a political persecution, said Trillanes, who vowed to keep fighting for his colleague until she regains her freedom and wins back her good name.
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