De Lima, a continuing injustice

Last August 17, 2022 marked 2000 days in detention of former Senator Leila De Lima at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

She was arrested five years ago when the Duterte Department of Justice filed trumped up criminal complaints—one conspiracy and two related to drugs—against her after she took steps, as Chair of the Committee on Justice of the Senate, to investigate the extrajudicial killings being committed in Duterte’s war against drugs.

Charges were also filed with the Ombudsman for the same allegations except that direct and indirect bribery were the ones filed with the latter.

In the course of the criminal trials for the drugs charges, the principal witnesses for the prosecution have either admitted being co-opted and /or threatened, coerced into implicating her.

Like Kerwin Espinosa, a confessed drug lord, who made a statement that he had no dealings with the detained lawmaker; that he was “only coerced, pressured, intimidated, and seriously threatened by the police.”

Former Bucor Chief Ragos himself said, “all of my allegations to the contrary in my affidavits and House and court testimonies are all fiction, false, and fabricated.”

Ronnie Dayan, the former security aide of De Lima and the star witness of the prosecution, denied getting P10 million from Ragos.

And the last is Marcelo Adorco who denied his previous statement that Ms. De Lima and self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa met up in Baguio City.

To date, one of the three cases against her have been dismissed, while two are undergoing trial.

In the meantime, just last week, the Ombudsman dismissed the bribery complaints against De Lima and her co-accused. There is simply no factual basis for direct or indirect bribery to prosper.

Despite these developments that clearly and unmistakably point to De Lima’s innocence and the malice of her accusers together with the strident calls by untold number of personalities and organizations for her release, she remains deprived of liberty and continues to suffer.

Latest to show their support and utmost concern are US lawmakers who came to visit her detention cell.

That De Lima remains in detention is a continuing indictment not only to the perpetrators of these false accusations but also demonstrates the unraveling of the brokenness of our justice system which, despite everything. is proceeding at an excruciatingly glacial pace.

In her own words, “(it) is yet another reminder to the world that the justice system in our country is broken.”

She laments thus: “I was detained, and persecuted, because I dared to speak for those who were oppressed against a populist tyrant” xxx “And by fabricating spurious charges against me to deplatform and silence me, the former wannabe dictator only proved my point and solidified his status as an oppressor, demonstrating his vindictiveness, x x x”.

They say justice delayed is justice denied.

If mere fact of delay is a denial of justice, how much more in the case of De Lima who has been falsely charged, persecuted and remains in detention for 2000 days and counting?

Her continued incarceration is an abomination, one that transgresses any and all norms of a just and civilized society.

Five years is a long time to suffer in jail for one’s principles and convictions.

Over the years we can only admire how the good Senator comported herself all throughout the ordeal which could have broken a lesser man or woman.

But, no, she remained defiant and unfazed in her resolve to seek justice, to fight for what she believes is right.

If this can happen to De lima, a former senator of the Republic, how much more to the lesser known, lesser powerful, those who have no clout and resources to fight injustice?

Sadly, her plight gives credence to the conventional belief that, in this country, justice is illusive or illusory.

The whole world is witness to the woman’s remarkable courage and unbreakable spirit even if the cards are heavily stacked against her.

Former Senator (now Congressman) Ralph Recto put it most aptly when he joined the chorus and delivered an impassioned speech during the last session day of the 18th Congress for her release.

He characterized De Lima as a “feisty lady worthy of our respect.”x x x a “prisoner of conscience, punished for her courage, but whose spirit no prison walls could contain.” And that “Trolls put her behind bars. The truth shall set her free.”

To poet Khalil Gibran, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

And all throughout these years, De Lima has shown us that she is the impersonation of this courageous soul, forged by the crucible of her ordeal.

The least that the Marcos government can do now is to take appropriate measures to expedite her release and the dismissal of the remaining cases and run after the perpetrators of this gross injustice, and for the courts hearing the cases to expedite the proceedings.

Today, August 27, Senator De Lima celebrates her sixth birthday in jail. This should and must be the last. Maligayang kaarawan Senator Leila! My birthday wish for you is your freedom—and soon!

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