Reader, I am obsessed with the case of Sen. Leila de Lima and her persecution by President Duterte and his minions. You should be, too, because if it can happen to the senator, the more it can happen to any of us: victims of blatant abuse of authority, victims of persecution through prosecution. Truly, this is exactly what happened during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos (although he often didn’t bother to prosecute). But wait a minute. We are not under a dictatorship now, are we? So why is it happening?
And, it is obvious, the outside world is worried, too. The 128-year-old International Parliamentary Union (IPU), composed of 176 member-countries and 11 associates (regional assemblies), has made representations that the senator should be released because the charges seem baseless (false and incredible witnesses—not the IPU’s language but mine—SCM), and if that does not happen, it will send someone to attend and observe her trial.
Is the IPU bullying us, as Communications Secretary Martin Andanar claims? Of course not. Its human rights committee makes a report every year to the assembly about human rights violations against legislators (members of parliament). Last year it reported 456 cases all over the world. So we are not being singled out.
Why is De Lima being persecuted? She has been in police custody for eight months and counting, for the crime of trading in illegal drugs. But the Information offered by the Department of Justice against her, and which was the basis of the judge’s warrant of arrest, did not include any of the essential elements of that crime. It failed to identify who the buyers were, who the sellers were, what the product was, and when the deliveries and the payments for them took place. There was even no presentation of the corpus delicti (in this case, the illegal drugs traded). And yet the judge issued the warrant of arrest (that’s gross abuse in my book). And worse, the Supreme Court, by a vote of 9-6, gave its imprimatur. (This act evoked memories of the Supreme Court in the 1970s giving its imprimatur—only 2 dissents out of 11.) Imprimatur to what? To the violation of De Lima’s constitutional right to know what she is charged with, and, as far as I am concerned, her right to justice.
Let’s talk about that decision of the high court for a while. On the face of it, all four Duterte appointees and five of the six Arroyo appointees voted as a majority. And all five of the Aquino appointees plus the one other Arroyo appointee constituted the minority. So on that basis, it seemed the high court voted along “party lines.”
Be that as it may, to remove any of those nasty suspicions, I will quote only from the opinion of the lone justice who crossed party lines: Antonio Carpio. One cannot accuse him of bias: He voted with Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno (who had earlier nudged him out of the chief justice’s post) and against so many of his long-time colleagues in the high court. So what did Carpio’s dissent say?
In a word, his dissent was like a juggernaut that reduced to rubble any and all pretensions of the majority. I especially admired how he threw the ponente’s (and a lot of the majority’s) previous decisions in their faces—where they repeatedly ruled that the Information must allege all the essential elements of the offense charged. Yet in the De Lima case, this was all ignored.
According to Carpio, “what is apparent is that the crime alleged in the Information [against De Lima] is Direct Bribery.” So why do the authorities insist on the latter? Simple, really. Direct bribery is bailable, and illegal drug trading is not. Remember, Mr. Duterte wanted her to “rot in jail.” See what I mean?
Anyway, Carpio easily disposes of every substantive (very few) and procedural (very many) argument made by the majority. Says he: “Based on the Information itself, the accusation of illegal trade in drugs … is blatantly a pure invention. This Court, the last bulwark of democracy and liberty in the land, should never countenance such a fake charge. To allow the continued detention of petitioner under this Information is one of the grossest injustices ever perpetrated in recent memory in full view of the Filipino nation and the entire world.”
Free Leila de Lima!
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