Circling the wagons

Perhaps, if the Department of Justice succeeds in jailing Senator Leila de Lima on drug trafficking, bribery and other serious charges soon, it should also throw her Liberal Party colleagues in prison with her. If that happens, I don’t believe you’ll hear a lot of protesting from the public, anyway.

I’m convinced that if the remnants of the LP in the Senate had any sense of propriety left, they would let justice run its course in the case of De Lima, their colleague and famous damsel in distress. But by circling the wagons to protect De Lima in a shameless display of partisanship, the LP senators have not only insulted the entire justice system, they have also shown how much they miss the Aquino-era policy of selective justice.

I don’t recall ever seeing such a pathetic display of party unity ­—which is often a good thing in politics, especially since our politicians often jump from one grouping to another for their personal benefit. But the LP’s show of solidarity for De Lima is being staged for all the wrong reasons and must be called out as the aberration that it really is.

By way of comparison, I still remember how De Lima, as secretary of justice in the previous administration, helped in a big way in the effort to jail not just one but three incumbent senators simultaneously. In order to pacify a citizenry calling for Congress’ blood over the pork barrel scandal, the ruling politicians deemed that Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. had to be arrested and detained.

If anything, the jailing of the three senators was purely political, because the Aquino administration wanted to show that it was doing something about the scandal but could not bear to throw any of its allies in jail. And the three senators’ party mates in the Senate at the time never, as far as I can remember, banded together to protest their arrests, even on the very valid grounds that many other lawmakers had received money from the scam mastermind, Janet Lim Napoles.

While all the other senators were quiet about the arrest and detention of the three, the head of the Senate at the time, Franklin Drilon, could only meekly request that they not be arrested inside the chamber. It is important to mention Drilon here because, while he declared (and rightly so) that the Senate cannot prevent the courts from serving legitimate arrest warrants against any senator, he is now singing an entirely different tune as far as De Lima is concerned.

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Drilon led two of his LP colleagues, Senators Francis Pangilinan and Benigno Aquino IV, in denouncing the purported plan of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre to arrest De Lima this week. In a joint statement, the three senators warned that the alleged impending arrest of their fellow LP members was intended to be used as “a political tool, propaganda and smokescreen and distractions for the public.”

I had to check if there was any other Franklin Drilon in the Senate and if this was the same person who, as Senate president, did not lift a finger to stop the arrest of his three colleagues in the previous Senate. And as far as I could tell, this is also the same Drilon who was also linked to Napoles and her multi-billion-peso scam—but who was somehow never charged as one of her biggest and most important beneficiaries.

Indeed, during the indictment of his three colleagues in June 2014, then Senate President Drilon said the filing of charges against them was “part of the constitutional and legal process, which we must accept.” “The search for the truth may be painful, but this is a process that strengthens our government institutions and reinforces the trust and confidence of our people in our justice system,” Drilon said in a statement.

“[Ours is] a government of laws, not of men,” Drilon explained. “And no one is above the law.”

Again, I must stress that Drilon did the right thing when he kept his hands off the case of the three senators who got in trouble with Napoles. But Drilon, together with Pangilinan and Aquino, really blew it when they cast doubts on the application of the same judicial process to their colleague De Lima less than three years later.

Why was Drilon very much in favor of the search for truth when it shone a light on Enrile, Estrada and Revilla, only to disparage a similar search when De Lima is now its object? Is De Lima—for her LP colleagues, anyway— above the law?

The irony of it all is that Aguirre, De Lima’s nemesis, has been drawing all kinds of flak for not yet filing the appropriate charges against the senator, long after she has been unmasked and ridiculed as the chief protector of the illegal drug syndicates in the national penitentiary. Unlike De Lima, who used a shotgun approach to suing people that the Aquino administration did not like—a strategy that was so flawed that most of the officials she charged were acquitted almost as soon as Noynoy Aquino stepped down —Aguirre insists on filing “airtight” charges, saying that this is the cause of the delay.

But of course, the selective justice meted out by the former boss of De Lima, Drilon, Pangilinan and Aquino during Noynoy’s time is already the stuff of legend. It’s just pathetic that Noynoy’s former minions think that the same Yellow standard of filing and pursuing cases only against perceived political opponents still prevails in the present day.

Topics: Jojo Robles , Circling the wagons , Department of Justice , Senator Leila de Lima , drug trafficking , bribery
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