‘They thought incarceration would stop her, but they weren’t prepared for that seemingly bottomless well of tenacity and patience.’
TOMORROW will mark the fourth year in detention of Sen. Leila de Lima. She has been acquitted on one of the three drug-related cases filed against her, solidifying the apparent observation that these are truly trumped-up charges meant to bully her into submission.
The developments in these cases only support one conclusion: she did not have any involvement in the illicit drug trade. Prosecution witnesses have failed to establish any link to her; even the affidavit of the financial investigator of the Anti-Money Laundering Council made no reference to De Lima. (The investigations were conducted in relation to the financial transactions of another person and another business entity, with no relation to De Lima at all.)
More recently, another convict-turned-prosecution witness admitted that he had no personal knowledge of the alleged ties of De Lima to illegal drugs, and had apparently claimed that he had no transactions with her or with any of her co-accused. Even with the junking of the demurrers her lawyers filed in the two other cases (a demurrer is in the nature of a motion to dismiss the case, available to an accused after the prosecution’s presentation of their evidence) it should be fairly easy for the courts to determine who is telling the truth, and which side is blowing hot air.
Stripped to its bare minimum, the prosecution has been unable to credibly support any of their allegations, and De Lima continues to suffer her unjust detention. Though I have to add that De Lima’s detractors have failed to anticipate her strength of spirit – she continues to perform her duties as Senator of the Republic despite her detention, endeavoring to participate as much as her confinement allows. She files bills, adds her support to other legislation filed by her colleagues, weighs in on issues of the day, all through the tried and tested method of putting pen to paper, denied even the basic convenience of a word processor. I have grown accustomed to seeing her penmanship and her blue ink on her notepad, whether it be to talk about her beloved pets (she was previously just a dog parent, and confinement has led her to making friends with stray cats in the compound) or the incompetence of the current dispensation when it comes to the COVID-19 situation.
Admirable as well is the dedication of her Senate staff, transcribing her notes, making sure that she receives all her reading material on a daily basis, and sharing her output to the public.
On the rare times that I have been able to visit her, she greeted me with a genuine smile, just as she did back when we were both in government service. SOJ (as I had gotten used to calling her) is quite the extrovert – an engaging person to converse with, always ready to laugh at jokes and offer insight on different matters. Once I must have hugged her a bit too tightly, and she said, “Okay lang ako, huwag kang mag-alala.” Her unjust detention has captured the attention not just of partisans but also organizations and personalities abroad, who have added their voices to the loud and persistent calls to release De Lima.
They thought incarceration would stop her, but they weren’t prepared for that seemingly bottomless well of tenacity and patience. Perhaps, as is common with feeble men of their ilk, they expected her to give up at the first sign of pressure. But she did not, and to this day, continues to fight, with nothing but her truth in hand and her grit on the other. May the day that Leila will finally be free come soon.