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Uzi needed to take me down – Leila

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Leila De Lima yesterday described President Duterte as being “drunk with power,” serving as trigger for the rising incidents of drug-related extrajudicial killings that lead the country to a state of lawlessness.

In a privilege speech delivered a day after she was ousted as chair of the Senate justice committee, an emotional De Lima lamented what she called unending and unwarranted attacks against her only because she was getting closer to finding out the truth behind the extrajudicial killings.

“It would take more than a committee chairmanship, a House inquiry intended to pillory and crucify me, an ethics committee complaint based on hearsay, a baseless election protest, everyday tirades from the secretary of justice and the solicitor general, and vicious personal attacks from the President, to take me down,” De Lima said. “I guess it would take two magazines of an Uzi machine pistol to take me down.”

De Lima was alluding to a testimony of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato before her committee last week that sometime in 1993, Duterte emptied two magazines of his Uzi submachine gun into an agent of the National Bureau of Investigation.

She said Duterte has the dictatorial tendencies of Fortuna, the Roman goddess of fortune, who is the “executioner” of those drunk with power.

“Look behind you, and don’t forget that you are just a human being – not God, human. You’re just human,” De Lima said, citing a story of a Roman general being warned by a slave of being drunk with power.

She said Duterte and his allies like Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and what she called “paid trolls” have made their critics and human rights advocates as targets of “a new McCarthyism of our time.”

“If you’re not pro-Duterte, you’re a drug lord coddler, you are a pusher, you are an addict,” De Lima said. “This is the new communist bogey in our time: the addict. If you do not worship Lord Duterte, you are an addict because only addicts don’t worship Lord Duterte.” 

She reminded her colleagues that as the nation observes the 44th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, “all power, no matter how seemingly absolute, is fleeting.”

“That is the curse of those who hold power….What is permanent is truth and justice,” the senator said.

She said Duterte declared a state of national emergency, which implied the administration was incapable of enforcing order and had to resort to using extra-ordinary powers as commander-in-chief to maintain public safety.

“So are we in a State of Safety, as claimed by Sen. Cayetano? Or are we in a State of Lawlessness, as declared by the President? Safe lawlessness, or lawless safety? We call that an ‘oxymoron,’ with emphasis on moron,” De Lima said.

She chided Cayetano for making comparisons between the peace and order situations in the Philippines and Singapore.

“If Singapore is as peaceful as the Philippines now, did it mean that 30 people need to die every day there to be safe?” she asked, adding summarily executing suspected drug pushers as a means to achieve peace and order will only lead to the “peace of the dead.”

Then she hastened to add: “We’re slowly going there (peace of the dead), because the administration is slowly filling our cemeteries, literally exterminating criminals.”

She reiterated that it was Duterte — not her — who is giving a bad image to the country, adding he was complicating matters by his bad language against world leaders, like Pope Francis, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and US President Barack Obama.

She said the world leaders were merely expressing their concern over the increasing number of killings in the administration’s campaign against drugs.

“The President has already proven that he is more than capable of single-handedly giving a bad image of this country to the whole world in the short span of three months in office,” she said.

“He does not need any help from anybody on that aspect, least of all from me,” she said. “I’m not the one killing our countrymen so that they can be reported in the international media.” 

“Fight isn’t over”

Session was suspended after De Lima delivered her speech, as the senators, including her allies, did not ask her a question.

De Lima said she will continue her crusade for human rights, even as she thanked former presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III for appointing her as head of the Commission on Human Rights and justice secretary during their respective terms.

“Many friends and colleagues have told me, if only I did not call out the President on the murderous consequences of his war on drugs, and decided to be as meek as a sheep, I would not be in this trouble,” she recounted. “As the Bible says, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose his soul? I choose to keep my soul.”

De Lima also defended the credibility of Matobato, whose testimony, she said, was corroborated by other witnesses.

Meanwhile, De Lima found an ally in international rights advocates, who yesterday urged senators opposed to the Duterte government’s “trampling of human rights” to seek the lady senator’s immediate reinstatement as chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights.  – With Rhodina Villanueva, Jess Diaz

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