Rody, Leila among Time’s ‘100 Most Influential’

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - President Duterte and his fiercest critic Sen. Leila de Lima were among Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People for 2017, which also included actors, musicians, politicians, business leaders, activists and scientists.

But while the write-up on Duterte was critical of his war on drugs, De Lima was praised for opposing him.

Duterte, who topped the publication’s online poll for most influential people, was included in the “leaders category” while de Lima was listed among “icons.”

A short profile of Duterte was written by Cesar Gaviria, the former Colombia president who battled notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar.

Duterte had called Gaviria an “idiot” after the former Colombian leader wrote an article saying that the Philippines’ approach in dealing with illegal drugs was bound to fail.

Gaviria’s article started with Duterte’s statement comparing his war on drugs with the killing of three million Jews during World War II.

“Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now there are 3 million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them,” the article quoted Duterte as having said.

Gaviria said Duterte’s approach on narcotics was “as ill-considered as his grasp of history.”

“Since Duterte’s inauguration last year, some 7,000 people have been killed. His iron-fisted strategy alarms governments, human-rights organizations and faith-based groups while winning high approval ratings at home,” the former head of state said in the article.

Gaviria recalled that when he was president of Colombia, he was also “seduced into taking a tough stance on drugs.”

“But after spending billions, I discovered that the war was unwinnable and the human costs were devastating. The cure was infinitely worse than the disease,” he said.

Gaviria said Duterte could start solving the problem by treating drugs as a health, human rights and development issue. He added that the Philippine leader could “prosecute the most violent criminals and provide treatment for users rather than condemn them to prison, or worse.”

“There will always be drugs in the Philippines, whether the President likes it or not. The tragedy is that many more people are likely going to die as he learns this lesson,” Gaviria said.

Praises for De Lima

While Duterte’s description was mostly negative, de Lima reaped praises from her profile writer Samantha Power, a former US ambassador to the United Nations.

“Leila de Lima knew with whom she was dealing. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (dubbed ‘Duterte Harry’) has insulted Pope Francis, told (United States) President Barack Obama to ‘go to hell’ and expressed regret he did not go ‘first’ in a gang rape,” Power wrote.

“Most opposition politicians have kept their heads down, knowing Duterte is both terrifyingly brutal and massively popular. But Senator De Lima has become Duterte’s most vocal critic – a role her friends call suicidal,” the article further stated.

Power noted that De Lima convened a hearing on drug-related killings in August that featured what she described as a “devastating testimony from a former hit man,” referring to retired policeman Edgar Matobato.

“Duterte allies stripped De Lima of her justice committee chair. In February she was jailed,” she said.

The profile did not mention De Lima’s alleged links to drug lords, as well as her supposed giving of special privileges to drug convicts inside the penitentiary. Duterte’s spokespersons have repeatedly denied that De Lima is a political prisoner, saying she has been charged with criminal offenses.

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