Press Release
September 29, 2018

A Commentary: Defiant in the Face of Lies: Only Truth Will Set Our Nation on the True Path of Progress
By Sen. Leila M. De Lima
29 September 2019

Out of all the problems our country and our nation is facing - inflation, corruption, etc. - there is one "crisis" that the Duterte Administration is very passionate at addressing: how to revise history and whitewash this Administration's abuses.

They'd go to so many lengths. They'd waste people's time and money by broadcasting a "fake" interview of the President, which was little more than a self-indulgent platform for him to go on tirades against his critics and even threaten members of the armed forces who refuse to be weaponized by him in his political wars.

They'd even waste international bodies' time by having a representative go on record before the entire world, reading out a statement that can only be characterized, at best, as containing evasive, material misrepresentations about this Administration's persecution of critics and human rights defenders.

This is what our representative to the UN, Mr. Evan Garcia, did when he was given the unenviable task of responding to the report of UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour, entitled "Imprisoned, threatened, silenced: human rights workers across Asia are in danger."

Mr. Garcia claimed that the report failed to take into account the political context under which the charges against me came about.

With all due respect to Mr. Garcia, he underestimates, to the point of being insulting, the competence and seriousness of Assistant Secretary General Gilmour, and indeed the United Nations, in performing their mandate.

Contrary to what Mr. Evan Garcia said, the Assistant Secretary General did, indeed, take into account the political context of the cases being filed against defenders of human rights.

In fact, the acts of political persecution referenced in ASG Gilmour's report are well-documented. Against me. Against UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz. Against UN special rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, Agnes Callamard. And those don't even include the persecution of missionary nun, Sr. Patricia Fox, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, among others.

He even called then UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon a "devil." He swore at the EU and the UN when they called an end to the spate of EJKs arising from his bloody purge of the poor, which he euphemistically called his "War on Drugs."

I have petitions before the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court wherein the public statements made by the President and his henchmen are documented, showing that the cases against me from the outset - beginning from the now-discredited so-called "drug matrix" that the President himself admitted was false - was prompted by my persistence in investigating the spate of extrajudicial killings and advocating for human rights.

By his own words, he didn't like being "the whipping boy" of the human rights movement, so he vowed to destroy me. He resented being investigated after being implicated in the Davao Death Squad as a mayor, and for being held to account for his bloody war on drugs as the President. By his own statements, he linked human rights with his persecution of me. He even referred to me as his number one critic, saying "daldal nang daldal ng human rights, human rights... Pero marami siyang sinasagasaan. Pero she had a warning... She thought all the while that it was just a joke, to gamble the political leverage, as they would call it. Lumakas."

Again, I don't envy the DFA and Mr. Garcia, in particular, for their job of cleaning up after the mess made by an unhinged, mass murdering dictator. After all, I believe that many officials - especially career officials - are doing what they believe is necessary to continue putting our nation's best foot forward in the international community. It is just such a pity that they have to waste their efforts lying to cover for Mr. Duterte, who himself is so callous as to "admit" that his "only sin" are the EJKs. What a waste of government officials' time, resources and talent.

To Mr. Garcia's credit, he did not make any extraordinary effort to promote a falsehood. He stated the bare minimum. He claimed that I am being accorded my rights because I am being presumed innocent, and because I am able to work.

To set the record straight, I - an innocent person and a sitting Senator - have been detained for 583 days now. I have not been allowed to attend my son's graduation, even while an accused mass murderer and other detainees have been allowed furloughs for similar occasions. I have not been allowed to attend Senate hearings and deliberations and, therefore, not allowed to vote on legislative measures.

Worse, I am detained and being made to stand trial despite the absence of an iota of evidence of the illegal drugs allegedly traded or even the alleged millions or billions of pesos that I allegedly obtained.

Even worse, the witnesses against me are under the custody of my persecutors, one of whom - now BuCor Director Ronaldo Dela Rosa, the former PNP Director who implemented the President's "War on Drugs" - threatened witnesses, warning them that they may be state witnesses now, but "dying witnesses" later.

These are not the hallmarks of due process.

These are the hallmarks of political persecution.

The obvious and pathetic attempts to rewrite facts would be funny if it weren't so dangerous. I refuse to allow it.

Our nations have many problems that need to be addressed. Sweeping important issues, such as human rights abuses and political persecution, under the rug undermines our ability to hold our leaders accountable, not just for their abusive behavior, but also for their sheer incompetence and/or lack of care for the plight of ordinary Filipinos.

Ang mga kritiko po ng pamahalaan ay mahalaga sa pagtawag-pansin sa mga problema ng bansa at sa mga paghihirap ng mga walang pera, walang kapangyarihan at walang impluwensiya. Kung sila mismo ay patatahimikin, walang patutunguhan ang ating bayan. Ang mahirap ay lalong maghihirap at maapi; habang ang mayayaman ay lalong yayaman, at ang mga makapangyarihan ay lalong mang-aapi.

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