It was in the early morning of Wednesday, September 28, when I read that House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had declared that the world that the purported sex video of Senator Leila de Lima would be shown in the inquiry on the National Bilibid Prisons’ (NBP) drug crisis.
I thought the news would just die a natural death, because it is not only illegal, it is uncalled for, and if anything, it proves that government has absolutely nothing on Senator Leila de Lima and her role in the drug trade. Because if you have enough evidence against her, why would a sex video even matter?
It was thus no surprise to me that Senator Leila de Lima was holding a press conference by the time I woke up that morning. She had new proof of witnesses being forced to testify against her, and a statement on the violence at the NBP that morning. De Lima was controlled but angry as she read her statements.
And then she wasn’t.
Certainly there were many ways of performing her anger, public official as she is. She declared that the President and his men were out to get her, she said they were already mixing their stories up, she announced that the nation, the world, was laughing at the President. She cried foul, called the men running the Congress inquiry liars. She said her old staff and employees were being harassed, that she couldn’t offer them help, that she herself did not have the resources to defend herself.
But this is where one realizes that this performance did not do Senator de Lima any good either: she was making little sense herself. Because for sure she is one of the most powerful women in this country, a member of the largest political party, former Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and former Secretary of Justice, a lawyer, a Senator of the land, financially mobile, a part of the political and intellectual elite. She had taken on the Mayor of Davao, as she has the President of the Philippines. That’s more empowered than most any other woman in this country, yes?
This is why that performance of her anger was to me, uncalled for. It is not that she was hysterical because she was woman; it’s that she chose to perform it in this way, instead of in the way she’s performed it all this time, with calm and collectedness, with fearlessness and daring that she has built her public persona upon. Sure she’s only human, but as public official a decision was made to react in this way; as public official she was not, cannot just be, woman invoking victimization.
In fact, nowhere in her Wednesday press con did she even mention her being woman to be a critical part of this narrative – an admirable thing, as far as I’m concerned.
One imagines Senator de Lima knows exactly when this thing turned against her in such a big way: when she brought Matobato to the Senate talking about extrajudicial killings in Davao in the past, in an inquiry that is about the killings in the present. Certainly she knew there was something wrong with that given that a case can’t be filed against the President? Certainly she expected no less than the full force of the government after that show of daring – pointless as it ultimately was, unless the point was merely to discredit the President, and get us all out on the streets.
This full force meant a slew of high-profile criminals declaring that she was getting payola – stories that were far from being contradictory. It also includes the testimony of former CIDG head Benjamin Magalong, detailing how during the time of SOJ De Lima, they had waited in vain to be told of the NBP raid, only to find out that they were excluded from it altogether.
On September 20, DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said that they have enough to file a case against Senator De Lima, given all the witnesses that they have. Aguirre also said that they were not going to rush into filing a case just yet, as there is a process of building up a case.
Which is why it surprises me that those who have rallied around Senator de Lima have asked why it is that a case has yet to be filed against her. In fact, were a case already filed, we would all be screaming about no due process. It’s also important to be reminded that when the Senator was with DOJ, this was also her policy: no rushing cases no matter how controversial, i.e., the investigation against Vice President Jejomar Binay in 2014.
I’m sure even Senator de Lima would agree that there’s no point in rushing through this – or any case – at all.
Which brings us back to the purported sex video, which we should not be talking about at all, except that the President, and his Congressmen have talked about it way too much, like it provides some valuable piece of information that is absolutely required for this case to move.
Yet when Secretary Aguirre was speaking about the strong case they had against Senator De Lima, he did not mention this video. A week after, the Speaker of the House was declaring that this was the only piece of evidence that would prove the Senator’s relationship with her driver – a driver implicated by the witnesses in the NBP drug trade.
But the witnesses are the same ones who have already implicated Senator De Lima, and it is clear – if we are to believe these witnesses at all – that regardless of what relationships she has or does not have, she is being pegged down as part of the drug trade at the NBP. To even imagine that the video will add anything at all to this case is delusional. To insist that it be shown to the public at the Congressional inquiry is sensationalist. To keep talking about the video and how offensive it is, criticizing who is purportedly on it, makes for the most repulsive kind of (Congress)men there are.
So no, I’m not every woman, and neither is Senator de Lima. We are human beings and citizens who deserve a Congress that knows to draw a line between respectable and repugnant, honorable and distasteful – because in the case of a sex video that’s a pretty darn thick line.
And really now: if you can’t win this case against the Senator without that video, then you probably have no case at all.
Published in The Manila Times, October 2 2016.