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From the looks of it, we are in for another one of those protracted congressional hearings that go on and on as would a saga, an epic or a telenovela.

The hearing at the House last Tuesday consumed my day. I tried to do other productive things, but that was close to impossible. I did not want to miss a detail in the lurid testimonies being delivered: not a smirk and not a smile, not a wince nor a smirk.

Witnesses presented by the DOJ did not seem coerced, as Sen. de Lima claims. The most gregarious of them, Herbert Golanggo, appeared to enjoy the limelight. This was after all the (musical) bandleader who recorded an album from jail that achieved platinum status.

The stories revolved around one theme: then DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima’s systematic extortion from the gang leaders at the Maximum Security yard of the National Penitentiary. In exchange, the convicts receive generous hospitality. They were able to organize concerts, haul in beer by the truckload, bring Jacuzzis into their cells and, most disturbing, trade in illegal drugs.

The stories, collectively, paint a horrifying picture of the extent of corruption possible at the National Penitentiary. The corruption and collusion become profitable only if the drug trade was allowed to flourish. That is the most disturbing part: a nationwide epidemic of drugs developed from bad to worse because of the sheer greed of corrupt officials.

This is the sin for which justice must be applied.

If it is true that Sen. de Lima aided and abetted the illegal drug trade, then the blood is on her hands. For better or for worse, the war against the drug scourge, in the scale it has grown to, can only be fought with bare knuckles.

There may be blood in the streets. Some of them justly and some unjustly shed. But de Lima has no moral authority to denounce it. The drift of the House hearing situates her right at the source of the scourge.

It is probably premature to pronounce de Lima’s guilt. That is for the appropriate court to decide.

As the story at the House hearing unfolds, however, it is clear that the drug scourge happened because of the complicity of corrupt officials. That is not mere sin of omission. The complicity has been an active ingredient in the creation of this epidemic.


The live coverage of last Tuesday’s House justice committee hearing was interrupted to enable viewer’s to listen to de Lima’s privilege speech at the Senate.

That speech, delivered a day after the senator was ousted from the chairmanship of the Senate justice committee for pulling that Matobato stunt, was hardly a defense. It was sophomoric demagoguery.

De Lima accused the DOJ of torturing witnesses to incriminate her. The demeanor of the witnesses belies that.

She had earlier described the House hearing as a “kangaroo court” out to demolish a legislator critical of the President. That is misdirection and mischaracterization. She figures in the unfolding story of corruption and collusion at the National Penitentiary because she is a central character in that story.

De Lima provides a counter-narrative to the dramatic events of the last few days. She calls up a conspiracy to destroy her. There is no need for such a conspiracy. The senator has proven she is sufficiently capable of self-destruction.

Even before the first witness spoke, there were many derogatory stories circulating about de Lima. The testimonies were merely confirmatory. For those in the know, these testimonies merely underscore what was long suspected – or what was earlier held as dismissible gossip.

In her privilege speech, de Lima wraps herself a heroine for a just cause. She bemoans the poor people who have become victims of the war against drugs. Most of them, however, were victims of drugs before they became victims of aggressive law enforcement.

The guise of heroine for the downtrodden does not befit de Lima. When she was Secretary of Justice, she did nothing for those on the margins of society. She did nothing to stop the illegal drugs trade clearly centered in a penitentiary under her control.

There is only one thing de Lima should have told us to redeem that sophomoric speech: Why did she have a penchant for visiting the maximum security facility at the National Penitentiary?

She should tell us why, when she ordered all the major drug lords relocated to the NBI detention facility, she excluded the biggest and most notorious drug lord of all. When the competition was neutralized by relocation, Jaybee Sebastian managed to achieve hegemony over the drugs trade from the comforts of his cell at the maximum security facility.

She should tell us why she found it worthwhile, despite her heavy schedule, to enjoy private time at the quarters of Sebastian. She should tell us why she gave out her official phone number to hardened criminals.

De Lima should tell us why, when she was Justice Secretary, the hardcore criminals were allowed so many privileges. These criminals kept phones and cash, even guns and grenades, in their quarters.

De Lima should tell us why, despite her visits to the private quarters of hardened criminals, she did nothing to curtail the privileges they enjoyed. She could not profess ignorance of the luxury with which convicted drug lords lived inside the penitentiary.

Her attempt to picture herself as crusader for human rights and due process is undermined by all the testimonies linking her directly to drug proliferation.

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Read 2266 times Last modified on Friday, 23 September 2016 12:17
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