There’s one thing that a lot of people who cry “persecution” and “selective justice” to the high heavens these days keep forgetting: If you do unto others, you really shouldn’t whine when they do it right back to you.
A lawyer-friend has a compelling theory about why Senator Leila de Lima cannot play the victim card, regardless of how many press conferences she holds, how freely she weeps in public and how long she kneels in prayer in church. The lack of public sympathy for De Lima, according to this friend, is in large part due to the fact that she did not cut a very sympathetic figure when she was in near-total control of the criminal justice system as Justice secretary.
“It wasn’t too long ago when De Lima was playing the role of victimizer,” she told me. “Rightly or wrongly, the perception was that she was the main implementor of a policy of vindictive and highly selective justice; she can’t turn that perception around simply because the administration has changed and she is no longer the all-powerful SOJ.”
Indeed, if the latest pronouncements from De Lima about the poor treatment she’s supposed to be receiving from the Duterte administration sound eerily familiar, it’s because she was the target of the very same complaints just a few months and years ago. I refer, in particular, to De Lima’s objection to the filing of drug trafficking charges against her by an anti-crime group before the Department of Justice and her plan to stage her own legal offensive to challenge the immunity from suit of an incumbent president.
It was only a couple of years back when De Lima was defending her use of her office as the appropriate venue for the filing of charges against government officials, citing Supreme Court decisions to back up her pursuit of big names in the old Arroyo administration. And as for the immunity of her former boss, President Noynoy Aquino, De Lima (ever the faithful servant) said repeatedly that an incumbent president enjoys unique and absolute immunity from suit and that this immunity can’t ever be challenged.
How times have changed. Or rather, how low an opinion De Lima must have of Filipinos if she thinks that she can so quickly change her stripes from victimizer to victim.
If De Lima had kept quiet like most of her fellow former travelers on Aquino’s straight path—including some of the ex-president’s most vocal defenders in the Senate who have now been struck dumb—maybe she would not be greeted with raised eyebrows every time she attempts to assay the role of victim. But because she is by her own admission not really a politician, perhaps she may have been suckered into immediately going on the offense, even before she’s been really attacked.
So now she’s got no choice but to take on the mantle of human-rights advocate. Which is truly ironic when you recall that De Lima was the primary legal architect of the case that a United Nations panel ruled was a violation of the human rights of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
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Still on De Lima, I could not help but snicker at a practical joke played recently on her by someone who claimed to be her supporter on social media. To put the joke in the proper context, you should remember that a news website had earlier asked the question of whether or not De Lima was going to be the next Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.
This is how that exchange went on De Lima’s Facebook wall:
Poster: I am one of those who believe in your ability, Madam, to follow in the footsteps of Senator Miriam.
De Lima (or the person managing her account): Thank you for being here and for your love and support.
Poster: No problem. Advance rest in peace.
Seriously, I don’t think De Lima should choose Santiago as her role model. I’m too much of a Miriam fan (and too consistent a critic of Leila) to agree that the senator from Iriga City can ever become like my all-time favorite legislator; let’s just say that the only commonality between the two is womanhood, in my opinion.
The better person that De Lima should emulate is Gloria Arroyo. Yes, the same person De Lima pursued like an avenging Yellow harpy with all the resources of government—and who kept a dignified silence throughout Leila’s six-year bombardment.
When you think about it, there is no way that De Lima has come close to suffering the persecution that Arroyo suffered at the hands of the Aquino administration. And yet, I never heard Arroyo publicly cry, wring her hands and seek sanctuary like De Lima has, even when Gloria was thrown in detention and kept there for five years on the flimsiest of charges by her Yellow accusers led by Leila.
Regardless of your political persuasion and your own belief in the guilt or innocence of Arroyo, you can’t help but admire her silent and classy acceptance of her fate as the whipping girl of an entire government that seemed to believe, at times, that it was elected simply to destroy her. And I believe that Arroyo was able to stay strong throughout her ordeal because she fully understood something De Lima seems incapable of comprehending.
That’s the Golden Rule, and it applies to politics as it does to almost every other field of human endeavor. So stay classy, Leila—after all, your troubles may have only just begun.