"Even if we have differences on certain issues, as a matter of principle—because I have my own beliefs, I have my own advocacies, [and] he has his own principles, beliefs and advocacies for governance—we don’t take things personally.” -- Sen. Leila M. De Lima
It's a fight between Senator Leila De Lima and President Rodrigo Duterte who are obviously abusing their power to gain some standing on their claims. An unfazed President stood by his recent attacks against one of her staunchest critics, saying he has evidence to back his allegations against her.
The President's tirades against the Senator are rooted in her supposed assumption that the chief executive himself is linked to extrajudicial killings. "Popular or not, murder must stop. S-T-O-P. STOP. Stop the killings now!”
The long-standing word war between Duterte and De Lima has come to a head on Wednesday when the President dropped the Senator's name as the public official he wanted to "destroy" — as alluded to in his previous speeches.
Duterte said that it was his “duty” as Chief Executive to name Senator De Lima as the female government official he had just attacked in a speech. He claims De Lima has a "lover" who collected drug payoffs for her. He chastised the Senator for questioning his campaign against illegal drugs. De LIma is the human rights crusader who had repeatedly "slandered" Duterte in connection with alleged extra-judicial killings.
But why would a Duterte lambast a De Lima with immorality when he is also a personification of such? Didn't he arrogantly said before that he has other wives and lovers? He also boasts of his killings and not to mention his wild curses and threats towards his enemies.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director Gen. Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa on Wednesday said they would be looking into the activities of Sen.Leila de Lima’s driver whom President Duterte accused of collecting money from the New Bilibid Prisons.
If the accusation that De Lima engaged in an illegal relationship with her driver is true, then she can potentially be disbarred.
"Namumulitika, posturing when you yourself have a very sordid personal and official life." says De Lima about Duterte.
De Lima held a press conference a day after Duterte's attacks. But still she never directly answered or contradicted the accusations of Duterte regarding her affair with her driver. Instead, she said "If you are bent in destroying me, please have the decency to spare my colleagues, friends, and family. Wala po silang kasalanan sa inyo." Teary-eyes, she said that the accusations would not deter her investigating drug-related killings. "Mr. President, I have been vilified and attacked, not only in social media but also by the President’s men as a drug lord coddler and protector."
“These are the president’s men. Now, what am I supposed to think and say about that? These are the President’s men trying to discredit a sitting senator.” De Lima adds.
Duterte says De Lima should expect scrutiny over her private life as a public official: "Anong 'spare the family'? 'Pag nasa public eye ka, De Lima, your life is an open book."
De Lima has been one of the active detractors of Duterte with statements such as "If there is evidence against these people he has named and shamed, cases should just be filed against them so that warrants for their arrest can be issued. If there is no evidence, then this is a plain and simple witch hunt."
“We have to determine the facts. We have to know the truth. We have to find out exactly why is this happening. We have to find out how many have been killed in the course of this intensified drive against drugs." adds De Lima.
De Lima said she had witnesses who could testify against police “scalawags” allegedly behind the summary executions of suspected drug dealers. The Senator said the Senate Justice Committee will proceed with its inquiry into drug-related killings on August 22 and 23 after holding an initial meeting with committee members. "Ang pagsasagawa namin ng Senate inquiry ay hindi... para ipahiya ang mga law enforcers para bawasan ang kanilang commitment na wakasan ang drugs... Ang ating layunin, alamin ang katotohanan at kung gaano kalala ang problema..."
The 'shoot on sight' order of the President is only justifiable if lives of civilians and authorities are in danger. She believes that the use of force in some killings may not be necessary, or, if necessary, was not proportional. She claims that the President may face charges of humanity related crimes at the International Criminal Court for the spate of killings related to drugs that have significantly increased ever since he became the President.
Various women's groups denounce Duterte's accusations against De Lima. "This is no less than abuse and misuse of executive power." She called on Duterte to stop portraying her as the enemy. Several senators believe that the Senate should not be involved in the feud between the two.
"Words cannot express what I'm feeling right now. I guess no one can, because no one has been attacked in such a manner by no less than the highest official of the land, until now." says De Lima
"As a woman, I take deep offense at President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest remarks against fellow Senator Leila de Lima. They are misogynistic," shares Senator Risa Hontiveros.
Rushing to the aid of embattled De Lima, former presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told her to cheer up after Duterte publicly lambasted her as an immoral woman whose driver-lover peddled drugs.
The Liberal Party also defended Senator Leila De Lima from President Duterte, saying she deserved public support for raising the alarm over the hundreds of deaths linked to the war on illegal drugs.
Despite all of these, De LIma says “Hindi po ako lalaban. Hindi ko po kaya labanan ang pangulo. Unang una, hindi ko nga po alam ang kasalanan ko sa kanya,” "I would of course, push through with that because he knows my position also on those matters. We may not agree, but we cannot be disagreeable. We need not be antagonistic to each other."
The public's reaction to the administration’s anti-drug campaign, including the summary executions, appeared to be favorable, as indicated in Duterte’s 91 percent approval rating in the latest surveys. But are we really going to be living in a country where the war on drugs sinfully attacks accused without any opportunity to defend themselves in the court of law. The law enforcers themselves are becoming the law breakers. The country could turn into a massive “killing field” in due time if it is not halted. Duterte's soaring popularity should not be made as an excuse to support drug-related killings. We should not stay silent on the killings.
What can you say about this heated public exchange? Share with us your thoughts on the comments section below.