MANILA - Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Wednesday urged fellow lawmakers to end the "injustice" that has been served detained Sen. Leila De Lima and instead "do the right thing" by calling for her release.
"Panahon na para ituwid natin ang malaking pagkakamaling ito at sumama sa aking panawagan na palayain si Sen. De Lima," Trillanes said in a privilege speech.
De Lima, who recently marked her sixth month in detention, has been held at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center as she faced trial on non-bailable drug charges.
The lawmaker, among the administration's most vocal critics, is accused of taking money from illegal drug operations at the national penitentiary during her time as Justice Secretary. She has repeatedly denied the allegations, calling them political persecution.
In his speech, Trillanes defended De Lima by citing the war she had waged against illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison when she was justice chief.
"Sa kaalaman ng lahat, si Sen. De Lima ang kauna-unahang Secretary of Justice sa kasaysayan na nagkalakas ng loob na i-raid ang illegal drug operation sa Bilidib," Trillanes said of her fellow minority senator.
He cited the Dec. 14, 2014 raid that De Lima led with the help of the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the PNP and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) at the national penitentiary.
"Dito nadiskubre ang magarbong lifestyle ng convicted drug lords sa loob ng Bilibid. Doon nakita ang mga limpak-limpak na pera, droga, baril pati na jacuzzi, recording studio at mga mala-hotel na kuwarto sa loob ng mga kubol," he said.
De Lima also led subsequent raids that saw the dismantling of high profile inmates' luxury kubols inside Bilibid, he said.
Trillanes said that there have been no more raids at the prison under Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, among De Lima's chief accusers.
In July, Aguirre bared the resurgence of the drug trade in Bilibid.
Trillanes, also a fierce administration critic, talked about various inconsistencies in the testimonies of alleged drug lords against De Lima, among them Herbert Colanggo, JB Sebastian and Kerwin Espinosa.
The senator cited several possibilities why the Duterte administration wanted to pin De Lima down.
"Isang paraan upang balikan siya ni [President Rodrigo] Duterte dahil sa pag-imbestiga niya dito bilang utak ng Davao Death Squad noong siya ay mayor pa ng Davao City at si Sen. De Lima naman ang chairman ng Commission on Human Rights," he said.
He also thinks it's Duterte's way of hitting back at De Lima for initiating a Senate investigation on extrajudicial killings.
Trillanes also looks at De Lima's detention as a way to create a chilling effect "so other oppositionists would be afraid to stand up to him lest they end up facing trumped up charges like her."
He called her imprisonment "political persecution," a view shared by international organizations and groups who have called for her released.
"Hindi po siya kriminal para tratuhin na parang isang kriminal. There was no overt action done at all to merit her incarceration," he said.
He also called on Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, to conduct a hearing on the allegations of drug lords against De Lima, citing the need to reveal how the Duterte administration used inmates to implicate her in illegal drugs.
"Ako ay naniniwala na siya ay makakalaya muli, malilinis ang kanyang pangalan at higit sa lahat siya ay makakapagsilbi muli sa ating bayan," he said.
De Lima has a pending petition before the Supreme Court against her incarceration.
Duterte himself was first to publicly implicate De Lima in the drug trade. Aguirre has denied that the charges against her were politically motivated, citing sufficient evidence to bring her to trial.