MANILA - Allies of former President Benigno Aquino hit back at President Rodrigo Duterte for being vindictive and intolerant towards his political rivals, specifically, Senator Leila de Lima.
For Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat, what Duterte did can be considered "unpresidential."
"I think it's no longer presidential. I mean, 'yung criticism naman sa isang public official, that's part and parcel of our life, but eto kasi is masyado nang personal. Naintindihan ko kung batikusin mo ang isang kapwa mo public official in terms of policy and pronouncements. Ito, character assassination talaga, paninira," he said.
He added that he sees a pattern in how Duterte will react to whoever will go against him.
"In fact, nakikita ko ang banta ng pangulo. Lahat ng tumutol sa kaniya, sisiraan niya or babantaan niya, kasi 'yun din nangyari kay Chief Justice Sereno. Para sa akin, I sent (a) text message to Senator De Lima, I am with her and hopefully magreact din 'yung publiko, 'di porke't pangulo ka, of course, you're immune from suit, pero kahit ano pwede mo na lang sabihin sa mga critics mo, sa mga tumututol sa iyo," Baguilat added.
Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin, on the other hand, also expressed his support for De Lima, calling Duterte's comment against her as "intolerant" and "mysoginist."
"I think we would not resort to that mudslinging, character assassination. It seems there's a growing pattern of President Duterte for intolerance and being misogynist. Twice, magkasunod 'yun, Supreme Court Justice (Sereno) and now, Senator De Lima, targetting women. So, nakakabahala itong kaniyang intolerance and kabahagi ng vindictiveness," he said.
"Ang point lang namin dito, dapat i-raise (ang) level ng discourse, lalong lalo na sa war on drugs. The war on drugs should not be a war of attrition, nangyari lahat eh, 'pag 'di kampi sa kaniyang pananaw," Villarin added.
Villarin pointed out that the statements of Duterte take on the nature of policy because he is president.
"Binabanatan, meaning even his statements, we cannot separate his character from the presidency. Sometimes, always, the excuse is hayaan mo na si Presidente dahil ganiyan talaga kaniyang character. The presidency and his character are the same, 'di pwedeng excuse, hayaan na lang, ganiyan na dati ang pangulo," he said.
"I'm appealing to the president yung ganitong character assassination, 'yung ganitong below the belt approach, 'wag naman nating gawing polisiya. Nakakatakot. Everybody can be fair game in such kind of attacks. Sinasabi, immunity of the presidency from suit ay 'di pwedeng maging excuse, even being popular doesn't give him the right na para tirahin na lang or sabihin atakihin on a personal level 'yung elected senators and officials. So there should be a level of...a sense of fair play," Villarin added.
Baguilat even compared Duterte to Aquino, saying Duterte is worse than his predecessor.
"For instance si President Aquino, lagi sinasabi, pikon kay President Duterte. Ibang klase, mas masahol sa response, batikos, either babantaan or sisiraan. Medyo nakakatakot din," he said.
Dinagat Islands Representative Arlene "Kaka" Bag-ao also expressed her support for De Lima, calling on "strong women" to stand up against insults.
"I am one with the strong women who are doing their very best to ensure that our society becomes more discerning and humane. Nawa'y hindi tayo magpatinag sa mga insultong naglalayon lamang na pahinain tayo. Ipakita natin ang lakas ng kababaihan sa pagbubuo ng isang bayang marangal at may pagpapahalaga sa mga karapatan at sa dignidad ng tao at ng kanyang buhay," Bag-ao said on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Party called on Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III to "uphold the independence of the Senate" and show its support to De Lima.
"The Liberal Party stands for free and open debate, for due process of law, and respect and civility in public discourse. Senator Leila de Lima is doing her job as a senator of the Republic. She deserves support, not condemnation; respect, and not gutter language; she and our people deserve the facts, not innuendo. Nakakalungkot ang mga salita at mga paratang na naninira sa kaniyang pagkatao at lingkod bayan. To this end we call on the Senate President to uphold the independence of the Senate whose membership must always be vigorously supported as they fulfill the people's mandate to make inquiries in aid of legislation," the party posted on its Facebook page.
Duterte on Wednesday slammed De Lima for allegedly having had an illicit affair with her married driver, and claimed the driver accepted campaign contributions from illegal drug traders.
Duterte initially did not mention De Lima in his speech in Camp Crame, but identified the person as being one of the staunchest critics of his war on drugs. Later pressed by reporters, Duterte eventually admitted he was alluding to the female lawmaker.
READ: De Lima fires back at Duterte for 'abuse, misuse' of power