Due process

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

Senator Leila de Lima is not exactly the right person to invoke due process when calling for an investigation into the rash of killings that has characterized the government's anti-drug campaign. She was, after all, Noynoy Aquino's justice secretary who ignored a Supreme Court ruling allowing former president Gloria Arroyo to leave the country for medical treatment abroad.

At the time de Lima prevented Arroyo from leaving, the former president was free to travel as was her right as a citizen. Despite numerous allegations against her, she faced no charges whatsoever in court or in any other legal forum. All that de Lima had against her was the suspicion that she would not return if allowed to go. She was a flight risk only in the mind of de Lima. Even a person with absolutely no legal sense knows mere conjecture is not a proven fact.

But de Lima had Arroyo held against her will at the airport. She was prevented from leaving without due process. It was only later that a willing judge was found and before whom charges were hurriedly filed, prompting just as quickly the issuance of an arrest warrant. And thus was Arroyo detained for years in a hospital owing to her serious medical condition. It was not until only very recently that the Supreme Court finally ordered her set free.

And now here comes de Lima, already a senator, trying to make a splash as if to erase the dismal fact that she only barely made it to the 12th and last spot. For her to edge out by nothing more substantial than the skin of her teeth the much-maligned and badly-damaged former MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino is a resounding message of how much value the electorate has placed on her person.

Why, even Manny Pacquiao who is supposed to be way out of her league led de Lima by two million votes. Of course, it is getting to the Senate that is important and not how many votes got you there. But to people with a little self-respect, the number of votes matters because not only do they make up their mandate, they also suggest the level of confidence by which the nation regards their representatives in government.

Judging by the results of the 2016 senatorial elections, the Filipino nation had the least confidence in de Lima among eventual winners. And there is clearly a reason for that. But then, unpopularity and lack of confidence have never deterred de Lima before. The Aquino administration was not exactly the paragon of virtue in pursuing its enemies, to the almost complete exclusion of its friends. And through it all, de Lima was part and parcel of that rigmarole.

And now she cries due process for those felled in the new government's relentless anti-drug campaign. But is she really for due process? The question needs to be asked in light of her own previous record in dealing with Arroyo. Due process, after all, is not an electrical switch that one can turn on and off depending on the need for illumination.

The fervor for due process is inextinguishable. It throbs in your heart for everyone and distinguishes not between foe or friend. When some Hong Kong tourists held hostage by a rogue cop at the Luneta were killed in a botched rescue attempt, de Lima was asked to conduct the investigation and submit her recommendations. When Aquino threw her recommendations out because they held his buddy over the fire, de Lima just bit her lip.

So you see, due process cannot only be denied, it can also be waived. Either way, it is to subvert the due application of law and the service of justice. Either way, it does not seem to be the strongest suit of de Lima. And yet there she is, in all her unrelenting prominence. So to end this sad and sordid episode in our national life, let us give to de Lima what de Lima wants. Let us have that investigation she wants in the name of due process.

But let the demand for due process be uncompromising. If we must have this investigation at all, let us summon everyone who might shed the slightest light on the killings from the very day the killings started. And this was right after the May 9 elections, when Aquino was still the president, and who could have stopped the killings if he wanted but did not. De Lima cannot have her anti-drug killings investigated and leave Aquino out of it. Due process demands that Aquino be summoned.


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