Thursday, February 18, 2021

Conversation with Sen. Leila, detainee (1)

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

No need for an introduction here because Sen. Leila de Lima’s answers to my questions give the whys and wherefores of her being in detention for four years. Hear ye!


Q. As the 4th anniversary of your detention draws near what thoughts and feelings are uppermost in your mind and heart? What was it like on the first days, what is it like now?


A.  Feb. 24, 2021 will mark my 4th year as a person deprived of liberty—1,462 days of injustice. How I long for my family and the simple things I used to enjoy outside.


I recall being sleepless on my first nights inside Camp Crame. But each passing day has made me stronger. Now, I sleep soundly knowing I’m fighting for what is right. Always on my mind is my intense vow to be vindicated for

my family to keep carrying with dignity the De Lima name.


Back then, there was a very palpable sense of surreality: how could this blatant abuse of the criminal justice system be allowed to happen so publicly and with undisguised impunity? Part of me kept on thinking this can’t be happening, and even as it quickly dawned on me that I really was being arrested and unjustly detained—part of me continued to have some confidence that the institutions put in place to check these abuses would correct this huge injustice. To be candid, the most painful part was not the attacks from my political enemies and those who hold a grudge against me for my track record for fighting corruption and abuses of power. It was in the weaponization of the people’s voice and of the justice system. These were the things I fought for, and they were manipulated and corrupted as a weapon to silence political dissent.


One by one the witnesses against me crumble. With that thought, the strongest feeling now is anticipation of my personal vindication and for the return of my liberty, which will allow me to keep fighting for human rights. But most of all, anticipation for the triumph of justice and democracy for all Filipinos.


Q.  What it is like to be in solitary confinement?


This has made me more contemplative and prayerful. Sticking to a daily routine and allowing myself moments of stillness has made my intuitions and thought processes sharper.


Q. Why do you consider your detention and the cases filed against you unjust and/or illegal?


The cases against me were built on fabricated lies. Orchestrated stories of my alleged links to the illegal drug trade within the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), put together by a cabal of operators on Duterte’s orders. But no amount of lies will change the fact that I am innocent. There are worldwide calls for my release because they know the truth that I’m politically persecuted for speaking truth to power in defense of human rights and social justice.


Q. Please describe the cases against you and why they should be dropped.


I’m facing three cases of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court. Criminal Case Nos. 17-165 and 17-166 are being heard at Branch 205, with the Prosecution having concluded their presentation of evidence. Criminal Case No. 17-167, meanwhile, is being handled by Branch 256 which has so far only heard seven of the Prosecution’s intended 36 witnesses.


The following case developments serve to prove my innocence:


1.   There’s no corpus delicti or body of the crime, meaning, the kind or volume of alleged drugs that is a basic premise for any drugs case was never identified.


2.   There’s no money or paper trail linking me to any illegal drug transactions.

 3.   There’s no conspiracy because in the first place, no one has admitted to being a co-conspirator who has personal knowledge of illegal drug transactions, let alone to dealing with me personally.

 4.   There’s no drug case, instead, what became apparent was (1) a kidnap-for-ransom case involving crooked cops who extorted money from a Bilibid convict whose niece they kidnapped; and (2) a bribery case involving Bureau of Corrections officials who took money from convicts in exchange for certain favors—neither of which had anything to do with illegal drugs, let alone with me.

 5.   There’s no credible testimony from witnesses who are mostly Bilibid inmates—their accounts were mere hearsay, riddled with inconsistencies and without any proof.

 (To be continued)