Pity poor Senator Leila de Lima, in jail for drug-related offenses that she and her allies desperately want to turn into a textbook case of political persecution. Now they want to stop her from yakking from her cell, as well.
Seriously, I am against the call to stop De Lima from saying whatever she wants, as some officials in Malacañang have proposed. She’s already been deprived of her liberty—she should be allowed to make whatever increasingly demented statements she’s been making from detention.
After all, absent a court order preventing her from doing so, that is still her right. And I suppose this government, despite all the bad press it’s been getting, still respects human rights.
I honestly don’t know why some people would want to issue a gag order on De Lima. It’s not as if she’s been saying anything new ever since she was thrown into the custodial center of the national police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
The handwritten missives that De Lima has been producing from jail have not changed in tone of substance since her incarceration. The esteemed journal writer Arthur Lascañas, whose skills in creative writing are now well known, would certainly not approve of them.
Until now, that is, when Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo has said he will petition to Muntinlupa City court that ordered De Lima arrested to issue an order to stop her from talking. The proposal has certainly given De Lima, who is running out of synonyms for “murderous,” something new to write about.
“I refuse to be gagged,” De Lima wrote on Sunday, after learning of Panelo’s proposal. “[The proposed petition] reinforces my belief that the things being done to me, especially my detention, are primarily aimed at stifling my criticisms against this murderous [that word again] and vindictive President.”
And De Lima is actually correct this time, unlike when she engineered the arrest and detention of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo despite the issuance of a restraining order from the Supreme Court. (As an aside, Arroyo, during her five years in prison, was not allowed to talk to the press; that she took this further imposition on her rights with grace and in silence is just another reason why De Lima’s habitual bleating from jail sounds so classless.)
My own belief is that the press will soon tire of De Lima, just as a majority of the population already has. And when the detained senator stops saying anything newsworthy (meaning new and unreported) anymore, the reporters who are now regularly poring over the handwritten notes spirited out of jail will just stop reporting on them.
By way of comparison, the only time you hear about the two other senators who have now served several years in the same detention center as De Lima is when they have a court date or when they are petitioning a judge for some time outside of their cell. Of course, I think Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. deliberately clammed up after their arrest, preferring to let their formal submissions to the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court speak for them.
But I think those two understood better than De Lima that they would be better off not crying regularly that they had been singled out for persecution, even if I believe that they really were. Indeed, any noise they make will really make no difference to the court that is hearing their cases, so they must have decided to devote all their time and energy to pleading their case before the tribunal.
Securing a court order to shut her up only plays into the narrative of victimhood that De Lima wants us so desperately to swallow. The government shouldn’t give her yet another reason to say that she’s being persecuted.
I say let De Lima talk until she is blue in the face. Given what’s she’s been saying since she was detained (or even before), I don’t really believe Panelo’s statement that she can “besmirch the reputation” and “further destroy” President Rodrigo Duterte.
That effort will have to proceed without De Lima. For now, let’s just enjoy the absence from the airwaves of the senator’s febrile statements delivered in her excruciating enunciation.
Don’t take away De Lima’s right to speak her mind. Because pretty soon, no one will be listening anymore.
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Meanwhile, over at the Senate, it seems increasingly clear that the reversal of Lascañas’ testimony has not improved his overall credibility as a witness. I don’t know about the senators in attendance, but I think Lascañas hit rock bottom when he told the Senate that his new and unimproved statements can be corroborated by Edgar Matobato, the man he accused of lying during the hearings on the Davao Death Squad last year.
Lascañas now also claims to have killed hundreds of people as a DDS assassin, which makes me wonder: If the former cop can’t be punished for perjury, can someone please hold him accountable for the murders that he now says he perpetrated?