IT is difficult not to sympathize with Senator Leila de Lima.
For days now, she has come under a withering, personal attack from the highest elected official in the land.
For two days running last week, she felt compelled to called a press conference to deny President Rodrigo Duterte’s allegations that she was an “immoral woman” who carried on with a married man—her driver, who also allegedly served as her bagman for drug payoffs from notorious inmates from the national penitentiary.
The senator, previously the Justice secretary who had overall authority over the penal system, vigorously denied the allegation that she was taking dirty money from drug lords—but remained silent on her relationship with her driver.
Instead, she complained, with some justification, that the President was abusing and misusing executive power.
“I don’t think the Constitution has ever contemplated such abuse of power on such scale, as it assumes every President to conduct himself in a manner befitting the office he holds,” said De Lima.
“It seems that this is not the case for this President,” said De Lima of Duterte.
A visibly upset De Lima said words could not express what she was feeling right now.
“I guess no one can, because no one has ever been attacked in such a manner by no less than the highest official of the land, until now,” she said.
“How does one defend oneself, when the attacker is immune from suit, and has all the backing of executive power to support him in his personal attack?” she asked.
The question is worthwhile, for truly, nobody can escape the ferocity of a determined attack launched from the Palace, and we can only pity those who, like De Lima, are the targets of such attacks.
But De Lima, who was the Justice secretary of President Benigno Aquino III, ought to know what that feels like, because she was on the other end of the stick not too long ago, when she used her office to persecute former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo—even defying a direct order from the Supreme Court to arrest her at the airport.
What followed her arrest—her detention without bail for almost four year—was denounced by the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights as a violation of Mrs. Arroyo’s rights and international law.
The same kind of Palace-directed media assault was visited upon former chief justice Renato Corona, who was hounded from office by a concerted effort that began with bribery in Congress and character assassination in the press, and ended in a guilty verdict from an impeachment court in which each senator who voted for conviction was gifted with pork barrel of P100 million.
Senator De Lima was party to all this—and an active participant.
Certainly, she was part of the executive machinery that was brought to bear against the hapless chief justice, who faced a determined attack from a source immune from suit—then President Aquino.
We hear Senator De Lima and sympathize. Nobody should be the target of such a vicious attack: not the senator, or the chief justice she helped persecute in similar fashion, when she was still part of the executive department.