Former senator Leila de Lima has issued perhaps the most blunt warning to former President Rodrigo Duterte since being released on bail, speaking about plans to bring charges against him and other figures behind her “persecution” and detention for nearly seven years on drug trafficking charges.
Addressing Duterte in an online interview with Inquirer.net on Friday, De Lima said: “Just face the music. We all know you are behind these killings; we all know you are behind my persecution.”
“The time for settling accounts has come,” she emphasized.
De Lima’s bail application was granted on Monday after Muntinlupa District Court Judge Gen. Gito ruled that the testimony of nine prosecution witnesses presented by the Justice Department was “insufficient to establish a conspiracy” between her and her co-defendants.
Gito was trying the third and final drug case against the former senator, the first two ended in her acquittal.
Speaking as a guest on “INQside Look,” De Lima responded to Duterte’s recent remarks made on his weekly show “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” on SMNI News Channel, a station owned by his “spiritual advisor” Apollo Quiboloy.
Duterte then said that De Lima and the International Criminal Court (ICC) should simply “join forces” and that he would “let” the public judge whether her bail was justified.
The “lone” ICC cell
Jokingly, De Lima stated that her “oppressors” could probably use a companion once they find themselves in the “lone cell of the ICC”.
– Maybe he just missed me? she added.
Duterte is on trial before the ICC for allegedly committing crimes against humanity in a bloody anti-drug crackdown that has killed thousands of suspected drug users and drug traffickers, mostly in poor communities. The deaths were attributed to either questionable police operations or vigilante-style killings.
De Lima expressed hope that the Marcos administration would restore the country’s membership in the ICC after Duterte ordered its withdrawal in 2019.
“What about those at higher levels? Those behind the murders? No one is investigating them, not Congress, not the Ombudsman, not the (National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police), not any other investigative arm of the government,” De Lima said.
She added that given the ICC’s powers to do so, the Marcos administration should change its current position of refusing to cooperate with the international tribunal’s investigation into Duterte and others responsible for the drug war.
Plans to sue Duterte and other officials over her legal difficulties are “in the works,” De Lima said. “It’s almost certain, even certain [cases against them] would be initiated. It’s just a matter of (deciding) the right timeline, the right course of action, the exact cases that will be brought against him and others responsible for my persecution.”
One of De Lima’s defense attorneys, Dino de Leon, said they were “considering” all officials involved in assembling the cases filed against her.
“For respondents, we consider all known authors of this political persecution,” De Leon said in a text message to the Inquirer. “They certainly know who they are.”
De Leon said then-Duterte Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II could be included as a respondent, calling him “one of the main authors of this biggest fraud in the history of the Philippines.”
“We will consider all legal remedies available to us to address them, including (filing) criminal, civil and administrative cases,” he said.
The future in politics
As for what other plans she has now that she’s out, De Lima said she hasn’t given any serious thought to her future in politics yet.
It would require “a lot of thinking,” she said, but she and other opposition representatives will meet in the next few days.
“I’m not sure about the plans [for the next elections] will be discussed,” De Lima said. “For my part, it’s beyond me… whether it will be the 2025 elections or any subsequent elections, because I haven’t decided yet whether I will return to public service.”
De Lima said her Thursday meeting with former Vice President Leni Robredo was intended to catch up and ask about Robredo’s plans when she returns to Manila.
For now, as De Lima said, she would simply like to build her life “anew”, and her “priorities” are making up for lost time with her two children – Vincent Joshua and Israel.
“And my grandchildren, although they saw me from time to time when I was in custody,” she added.
Identification papers need to be renewed – her passport and driver’s license expired during her years at Camp Crame – documents need to be sorted out, and valuable books need to be sorted out while they keep her company in her cell.
“[There are] many invitations to meetings, small gatherings, small celebrations and, of course, speeches,” De Lima said.
— WITH REPORTING BY GILLIAN VILLANUEVA