However one looks at it--intentional, deliberate, purposive, all of the foregoing--such is the “freeze the ball” mode by which judicial due process is being administered in the instance of the trumped-up, drug-related charges manufactured by the Duterte administration against Sen. Leila de Lima.
No wonder the latest United Nations Annual Report of Secretary General Antonio Guteres has listed the Philippines as a country “carrying out the ‘shameful practice’ of harsh reprisals and intimidation against human rights defenders and activists.”
The Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, in his corollary statement also noted “increasingly seeing legal, political and administrative hurdles used to intimidate--and silence--civil society,” adding further that documented cases are just “the tip of the iceberg.”
There are two immediately discernible ill effects of these undeniable UN findings on the Philippines’ new infamy as a serial violator of human rights.
One. It is inevitable that such public assessment will impact the international reputation and viability of the Philippines as a venue for investments and financial placements. And, of course, her standing as a member of civilized society. In fact, such deleterious outcome has already started its alarming onslaught upon the economy. Indeed, our notoriety of pervading human rights abuses is a contributing factor to the now evident slow blood-letting ‘national seppuku’ that actually began on June 30, 2016!
Two. The International Criminal Court (ICC) having decided to open a “preliminary examination” of the “human rights calamity” in the Philippines has its eyes peered fixedly, and ears as well, over everything that might even remotely resemble any human rights infraction involving our President, let alone the already voluminous graphic bloody documentation of what will definitely fall under the category of “crimes against humanity.” The grip of ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bom Bensouda’s vise tightens with every finding, heightened more especially by substantiated conclusions declared in the United Nations Annual Report.
There is mounting evidence that the detention of Sen. Leila de Lima will be made to drag on for as long as the principal instigator and mastermind of the cases filed against the lady senator wields power. Such, happily, is not forever while intimations of fragility concerning the President’s health run rife, without any convincing denial on the part of Malacanang forthcoming.
One need not be a lawyer to understand and appreciate what our Constitution’s Bill of Rights says. Section 16 of Article III: “All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies.” (Sen de Lima’s arraignment was accomplished only more than 15 months after she was put under the custody of the Philippine National Police in the Camp Crame Custodial Center.)
Sen. de Lima’s detention will have broken its 570-day mark this coming week. She has been in detention since Feb 24, 2017, held without bail.
Lest we forget, the drug-related charges, of orchestrating drug-trafficking activities against her, starkly suffer from the absolute absence of any material piece of evidence, whatsoever!
Ridiculously, not any different from accusing someone of murder without presenting a victim! Furthermore, the Department of Justice has attempted to bolster its case with mere hearsay evidence from convicts serving their lifetime sentences in the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa. These are fabricated testimonies from murderers and drug lords serving time, obviously easily enveigled and cajoled with prison perks and privileges as sweeteners, to testify against her.
It is very curiously noteworthy that none of the government’s police and investigative agencies (the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Anti-Money Laundering Council, the military, and even the Bureau of Prisons, itself) have ever produced any intelligence report, with any semblance even of a hint, rumor or gossip involving the senator during her incumbency as Secretary of Justice, the time about which she is accused supposedly of engaging in drug-related activities.
On September 5, the senator petitioned the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, addressing its Members and Observer States requesting urgent action on the Human Rights Crisis in the Philippines.
One reality, among myriad others is worthy of emphasizing. It is this: There is no way that President Duterte can evade responsibility for the country’s grand human rights disaster. By its own inadvertence, as officially expressed in his administration’s anti-drug campaign accomplishment report, it is admitted, as though it were a proud accomplishment, that the country experienced 3,986 "drug personalities" killed in police operations between July 1, 2016 to January 17, 2018. There were also 2,235 homicide cases in the anti-drug campaign, of which only 413 cases have been solved and 1,822 cases were still under investigation.
Unquestionably passing for an intentionally sordid dereliction!
It is therefore not surprising that the Solicitor General Jose Calida, when asked by the Supreme Court to submit records of all police encounters referred to as “extra-judicial killings,” demurred invoking “national security.” Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not pursue the matter. But most probably, there are really no such records being kept by the Philippine National Police. If, in fact, this is so, there will have to come a time for accountability and meting out judicial consequences.
We are aware that by its year-end report, the United Nations has already acquired knowledge and concern over the “human rights calamity” in the country. How soon the UN’s Human Rights Council will respond to the appeal of Sen. Leila de Lima and what action the august body will take, remains to be seen.
Instead of demolishing her, the vindictive pain she has been mercilessly inflicted with, purposively and devilishly, have only shown for all the world to witness a fighting and indomitable spirit. Leila M. de Lima is in possession and in command of guts, grit and grace like those who preceded her in the Philippines’ pantheon of imprisoned heroes. Faith is indeed the fount of her strength. Faith that “the arc of the moral universe maybe long but it bends towards justice.” The Lord grant that it may be sooner!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.
In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.
During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.
After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a Hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.
He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
His e-mail is: [email protected]
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.