Under siege and seeking refuge, President Duterte’s fiercest critic has found herself a “persecuted person.” Sen. Leila de Lima has become a target in the wake of the public disclosure of her mobile phone number and home address during a House of Representatives inquiry on Tuesday, when several convicted felons testified that she received drug money when she was justice secretary. De Lima was unable to go to work on Wednesday—a rare absence from the chamber. Her staff said the 57-year-old lawmaker was ill and that she had to look for a safe place while being bombarded with threats by people who believed the allegations first aired by no less than Mr. Duterte. “I have no adequate words to express my utter dismay about the lack of foresight and/or utter lack of sheer humanity displayed today during what I can only describe as a blatant exercise in harassment and persecution that is the so-called House of Representatives’ inquiry,” De Lima said in a statement late Tuesday night. Indecency, foulness
It has been a tough week for De Lima, who was ousted as chair of the Senate justice and human rights committee through a majority vote on Monday, and then repeatedly accused of receiving money from the drug trade at New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in lengthy sessions of the House inquiry. “I condemn and vehemently protest the sheer indecency and foulness of allowing my cell phone number and home address to be publicly disclosed,” the lawmaker said. “They have victimized me over and over again, and just when I thought I could not feel more betrayed, they have once again proven that I have underestimated their audacity and evilness,” she added. De Lima, whose contact details were released and repeatedly mentioned during the House hearing, said she had received nearly 2,000 anonymous text messages and calls as of 8 p.m. Tuesday, “threatening me, harassing me, calling me the vilest of names.” “They have basically destroyed my right to privacy and security in my communications and in my abode. I am now literally a persecuted person displaced from my home,” said the lawmaker, a mother of two. It was a magnification of threats she has been receiving since standing up against Mr. Duterte’s bloody drug war, after she initiated a Senate inquiry into the spate of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects.
She said her accusers “have turned people into weapons of destruction.” Making her an example “What the people have to realize is that this is not just an offense against me, but against everyone. They are making me into an example of what will happen to those who dare criticize and call out the abuses of those in power. Who would dare stand up for others now? The real victim here is the people, the oppressed. God save us all,” De Lima said in a statement. She could not be reached for further comment on Wednesday. Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, one of De Lima’s allies in the Senate, denounced the unceasing harassment of his colleague. “That’s what’s unfortunate. The fanatical followers of President Duterte think [what they’re doing] is funny, imposing their will, intimidating and harassing [De Lima],” Trillanes told reporters. “I hope we see that the culture of promoting a lynch mob will be dangerous for our country and our society later on. And we’ll have to put a stop to that … law enforcement agencies can look at culpable violations under the Revised Penal Code and the cybercrime law. We can do something about this kind of bullying,” he said.
The senator said the threat to De Lima’s safety may warrant Senate protection, which is accorded upon the prerogative of the Senate President. Threat level Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III is among Mr. Duterte’s key allies in the chamber and was among the 16 who voted to remove De Lima as chair of the committee. “She needs to justify the threat level against her but I believe it’s warranted,” Trillanes said. De Lima has not made such request, though. Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, De Lima’s colleague in the Liberal Party, said the Senate leadership must also take up the matter of protecting De Lima. “I think that’s something that the Senate leadership really needs to take up. In fact, I’m guessing [that] as fast as things are progressing, that will probably be a subject matter of a caucus,” he said