If Senator Leila de Lima wants to put a shingle outside her Senate office identifying herself as “Dogged Defender of the Previous Administration,” I’m not going to hold it against her. She’s still, in my opinion, more grateful to her former benefactor than, say, Franklin Drilon—who hogged the power and the pelf distributed to top allies of the past government, only to turn sheepishly silent in the aftermath of Rodrigo Duterte’s victory.
However, this early, I’d suggest that De Lima choose her battles a little better. Because at the rate she’s going, she only appears intent on covering her own behind as she goes about her new duties as the foremost advocate of the old, discredited regime that clearly bankrolled—and supposedly engineered—her Senate win.
When, for instance, De Lima began talking about the rights of the accused and the rule of law apropos of the various roundups and rub-outs of drug suspects, some people’s eyebrows took off heavenward. Wasn’t this the same Leila de Lima, they said, who as justice secretary defied an order of the Supreme Court allowing former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to seek medical treatment abroad —and who had Arroyo chased all the way to the airport to physically bar her from leaving?
Rule of law and suspects’ rights? Tell me another, Leila.
And when De Lima took up the cudgels for the five police generals, accusing Duterte of violating the right of the so-called “narco-generals” to due process, there was more snickering in the background. And it came from people who remembered that De Lima (again, as justice secretary) had led high-profile raids at the New Bilibid Prison, where two of the big-time drug lords Duterte himself had linked to the generals continue to ply their trade.
If De Lima was not just engaged in covering up her own failings at the national penitentiary, the critics said, she would, at the very least, wait until Duterte backs up his charges with evidence. But she just had to react right away, fueling suspicion that she was anticipating that the probe of the Bilibid VIPs would eventually lead to her Senate doorstep.
And, finally, when De Lima pooh-poohed the charges brought up against Noynoy Aquino as “politically motivated,” she elicited howls of laughter from those who still remember the part she played in the three-woman tag team that tore Chief Justice Renato Corona to shreds on the president’s behest. De Lima joined the esteemed ladies who headed the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit in giving substance to the politically-motivated charges dreamed up by Aquino—who took care of larding the House and the Senate to impeach and convict Corona.
In the end, Corona was convicted on unimpeachable charges of not declaring his piddling dollar accounts, and not because De Lima and her fellow furies succeeded in making real crimes stick. No wonder Leila fears political power backing trumped-up charges—she’s seen, up close, how lethal that combination can be.
But then, perhaps De Lima is just trying to live up to her reputation as a pit bull for the Yellow regime in reacting the way she does. After all, the wildly successful Leni Robredo approach involving coy smiles, fluttering eyelids and off-shoulder dresses is, sadly, not a weapon in Leila’s arsenal.
Still, prudence should have told De Lima to keep her silence, Drilon-like, until she had the goods on Duterte. But perhaps she is still nursing a hangover from her DOJ days, when she could just bark at anyone she wanted, secure in the knowledge that her master Aquino was at the other end of her leash.
You’re on your own now, Leila. In your desire to protect the hand that fed you, be careful not bite off more than you can chew.
Unless, of course, you’re really in danger of joining your former boss in jail, something that could happen sooner than anyone thinks. In which case, bark and bite away.
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If De Lima is Aquino’s loyal pit bull, Duterte seems to have found his own Rottweiler to engage her in a dogfight. PNP chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa came out swinging against the senator yesterday, telling his troops not to let up in the fight against illegal drugs, despite the “legal harassment” they are encountering from the senator and others.
The tough-talking police general told members of the national police during the weekly flag-raising ceremony at Camp Crame not to be intimidated by De Lima and her fellow critics. The PNP, Dela Rosa said, should let him and Solicitor General Jose Calida take care of their legal defense.
“I am here to encourage the PNP not to be afraid of any congressional or Senate investigations,” said Calida, who also attended the ceremony. “If there is a ‘fiscalizer,’ I am the neutralizer and the defender of the PNP.”
Bato against Leila. Sounds like a match to me.