A Win-Win Solution: Grant Leila Bail Now, the Courts Can Take Their Time
August 28, 2022
Leila de Lima served as Senator of the Republic for six years, of which 5 years and almost four months were from a cell in PNP headquarters; as Secretary of Justice, also for six years under PNoy Aquino; and as Chair of the Commission on Human Rights under Gloria Arroyo for three years until she was invited to join PNoy’s cabinet. It is important to note that her appointments to the last two positions were not on the basis of who she knew (the presidents did not know her on a personal level) but on the basis of what she knew (her CV is impressive, her reputation for being a straight-shooter even more so).
In her 15 years of public service, she served her country with integrity, with competence, with hard work, with courage. In fact, that she was incarcerated during the past six years is due to that courage — the courage to stand up to power and to call them to account. The courage to tell remind them that they are not above the law. These powers then used all agencies, personnel, and institutions at their command to bring her down. A clear abuse of power. A clear abuse of the rule of law.
And the Filipino people, who should have showed their appreciation for her work and her sacrifice – remember, she turned her back on an extremely lucrative election law practice to serve the country, and did not enrich herself in the process – stood on the sidelines and in their apathy or ignorance, or fear, watched silently, and even encouragingly, as she was humiliated. They bear a minuscule part of the blame though, which falls on the justice system, the legislature, and of course the rest of the executive branch all actively cooperated in her humiliation.
As a counterpoint to Filipino silence, de Lima has had remarkable and loud support from the international community – the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, World Organization Against Torture, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United States Senate and House of Representatives, to name a few. There was even a law passed in the US that would refuse visas to those who participated in her incarceration.
Throughout all this, de Lima, to borrow from Henley’s “Invictus”, has shown an unconquerable soul. Her head is bloody, but unbowed, and the menace of the years finds and shall find her unafraid.
What is the latest on this issue? You already know, Reader, that very important prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimonies, saying that they were coerced by the authorities into making false statements (bribing her, giving her drug-related money). Well In recent days, thankfully, there has been a growing groundswell of support for de Lima. From all sectors, Filipinos have gotten together to protest the injustice that she has suffered, and to show her their appreciation. A petition is going around asking for her release.
Also, it is being bruited around that when US Secretary of State Blinken and President BBM met, the former brought up both the de Lima and the Ressa cases (another parody of justice). PBBM is scheduled to attend the general session of the United Nations in September, and this itself pressures him into taking action that will win him much-needed points.
So there may be a volte-face on the part of the Department of Justice, which so far has insisted – with a straight face– and despite the retractions of their witnesses — that the courts should be left alone to make a decision. But given the “just-tiis” and “just-us” – nature of the system, that may take years.
Which means, Leila will remain rotting in jail. That is unacceptable.
Here is a win-win solution. The courts will continue hearing the cases, which is what the DOJ wants (what a waste of the people’s money, merely to save face). But the prosecutors (who are DOJ appointed) will now officially withdraw their objections to Leila’s request for bail. Which means Leila will be granted bail, and she can fight the cases against her from outside, not inside. What do you think, Reader?
Why am I bringing this up now? Because, Reader, today is Leila de Lima’s birthday – the sixth she has spent in jail. Senator Ninoy Aquino spent even more time — 7 years and 7 months in jail – but that was under martial law. See how the Philippines has fared since then – somebody can be jailed for almost six years now, even without martial law. That should give us pause. All it takes is an authoritarian president and 110 million cowards.
Senator, Secretary, Chair de Lima, we all wish you a happy birthday. Know that you are loved and appreciated. My birthday wish for you is that I will see you outside of the confines of the PNP headquarters, before the end of next month. And we will meet in a restaurant of your choice, so we can celebrate your freedom. Christian says, the sky will be the limit.