Time for de Lima to face her accusers
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - November 29, 2016 - 12:00am

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has created a fact-finding body to find out if indeed Senator Leila de Lima had received payoffs from drug lords for her election kitty. Whereas before the Ombudsman had none, now the anti-graft office has found some leads to support a probe.

From the start of President Duterte’s witch-hunt against de Lima, she has earned a fair amount of sympathy from the public. The president’s foul mouth and the misogyny and sexism directed at de Lima during the House committee hearings contributed to that public sympathy for her.

However, after the testimony of two key witnesses, Kerwin Espinosa and Ronnie Dayan, many people are now wondering if de Lima will ever face her accusers. It is not that she has been silent on the allegations. In fact, she has been vociferous in her denials since the issue broke out, hysterical even at one ill-advised moment. The problem with her denials, however, is that they have remained as general or blanket denials.

She has repeatedly called the probe against her a “demolition job”, a vendetta of “manufactured lies and fairy tales.” It did not seem to matter that the allegations against her have become quite specific and telling already. Of course, de Lima has yet to be tried in the court of law – what most politicians fondly call as the “proper forum”. But the good senator holds a public office – which is a public trust. Thus, she owes us her constituents an explanation beyond the blanket denials.

In fairness to her, she has promised to face her accusers in due time as she continues to maintain her innocence. I am willing to wait a bit longer for that time, if only to give her a chance to explain. But she should do it sooner.

When she was justice secretary, I had always seen de Lima as one of the shining stars of the Aquino administration. She was one of those appointees of PNoy, together with Ombudsman Morales, who possessed the integrity and strength of character to serve in government. That’s why I voted for her in the last elections. Now, that perception is being eroded by the numerous allegations against her.

Not that I find de Lima’s accusers honorable, either. We must remember that the witnesses against her are largely an assortment of high-profile convicts and alleged drug lords who surely have their own backs to protect. Yet they have narrated facts that can be corroborated by other testimonial and documentary evidences.

The more glaring circumstantial evidence, for example, is the photo of de Lima with alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa taken in Baguio City during the height of the election campaign. Along with the corroborating background testimony of Kerwin Espinosa (who was right in front of de Lima during the Senate hearing) and the testimony of her former driver Ronnie Dayan in the House hearing, how can de Lima logically claim blanket ignorance of that photo-op encounter?

De Lima conveniently points at the witch-hunting and the misogyny and sexism of her detractors. She has in fact every right to call out the violation against her womanhood. But will the good senator kindly face the allegations against her on their specific points?

Those out to destroy her at all cost will probably have their comeuppance sometime in the future. We have no love lost for their misogyny and prurient ways, anyway. But for the feisty and politically-correct de Lima, we would still like to find reasons to believe in her, and we’re hoping that she can survive her current ordeal and disprove the serious allegations of bribery against her. If she cannot or bothers not to, then it is just right for the Ombudsman to start the ball rolling for her eventual prosecution.


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