Philippine Senator Leila De Lima, who has been arrested on charges of accepting bribes from drug lords, denies all allegations suggesting she is the Pablo Escobar of the Philippines. In an interview with CBC News, De Lima cannot help but express her frustration and dismay.
“I know the truth: I am not at all involved in the illegal drug trade. I’m not a drug trafficker. I am not a drug coddler. Not at all guilty of the charges hurled against me. Every day I am in detention is a day of injustice. You don’t know how it feels to be falsely accused. I used to fight for victims of human rights abuses and oppression. Now that’s me.”
The former Justice Secretary continues to negate accusations thrown at her for accepting bribes from drug lords.
“I have no connection to the drug world except going after them. Suddenly, I am the Pablo Escobar of the Philippines? Jesus, where is the proof? They can look and look — they will find nothing.”
The senator, who has been arrested on the last week of February, is currently detained at Camp Crame, the headquarters of Philippine National Police. Other detainees in the camp are people whom she has put to prison. Before running for the senatorial seat, De Lima was well-known for conducting random jail visits as she cracks down corrupt officials for giving special treatments to infamous drug lord detainees in the New Bilibid prison. It turns out, however, she’s now allegedly involved in the drug trafficking at the said detention center.
On the other hand, the senator is also a human rights advocate. She, and the current president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, had been known to have some rows in the past with regard to the “Davao Death Squad.” The president at that time was the mayor serving the city of Davao. The DDS, as locals would call it, is said to always take matters of justice into their hands. Rumors once spread that Duterte is the one who formed the said squad. And although he has denied the accusations, he still has a lot of followers and is still known for his peculiar approach of fighting criminals.
Last year, after the all-out war on drugs was started by the president, De Lima openly criticized him for his orders and explicit tolerance on violation of the human rights. His uncanny way of hunting down drug users and pushers has led the senator to go after him. The extrajudicial killings resulted to more than 7,000 deaths, CBC News reports. President Duterte, however, remains unfazed by her tirades and criticisms. Instead, this has backfired as detained drug lords named the senator as their protector.
De Lima calls her case a “political persecution.” In her interview, she said that if putting her behind bars was an act to silence her, then she isn’t going to keep mum about the killings.
“I will never accept the extrajudicial killings. I will never accept the violations of human rights, I won’t be quiet.”
Senator De Lima’s supporters, some of her staff, and religious leaders come to visit her every week. In one of the masses, a priest has talked about in his homily how social media is being used to kill the truth.
Online, President Duterte has a lot of followers. He’s seen as the one with the political will to change the country. But the senator, on the contrary, has become a favorite topic of mockery and ridicule. And although social media has also been a tool used to promote peace and for people to voice their opinion, it was also used against her.
— Adobo Chronicles (@AdoboChronicles) March 25, 2017
Despite this, she still has some words to say to the people about it.
“Social media must stop being an instrument of lies, deceptions and oppression. Social media can truly be a powerful tool for change — genuine and positive change. Let’s go back to basic human decency and civility and love.”
Senator Leila De Lima hopes that the Supreme Court of Justice will rule in her favor. If this happens, she’ll be free and the Pablo Escobar taint to her name will then be refuted.
[Featured Image by Bullit Marquez/AP Images]