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De Lima hits Duterte for using drug war to silence opposition



Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has deplored Mr. Duterte's continuous attempt to use his murderous war on drugs not only to unleash a nationwide bloodbath but also to vilify and silence individuals critical of his deadly and absurd policies.

De Lima, a human rights and social justice champion, expressed this view in her latest opinion piece entitled "President Duterte's War on Drugs Is a Pretense" published in the American-based newssite The New York Times last July 22.

"He [Duterte] has [u]nleashed a brazen assault on the country's democratic institutions -- at times, using his so-called war on drugs as a pretense for going after his political adversaries and dissenters," she said.

"I should know: I'm one of its victims," added De Lima, who has remained in detention over three fabricated drug-related charges with "laughably thin" evidence.

Note that the Department of Justice and its cronies, upon Duterte's order, have managed to put together drug charges that were anchored on lies and manufactured evidence against De Lima, who is perceived to be a political opponent of the President.

It may be recalled that in 2016, shortly after Mr. Duterte's election, De Lima initiated a Senate investigation to look into the spate of extrajudicial and summary killings that were being committed under the guise of fighting drug crimes.

"The president's retribution was as swift as it was ruthless," De Lima recalled.

In her opinion piece, the lady Senator from Bicol pointed out that she found "most worrisome" the Duterte administration's effort "to cow what little remains of the formal political opposition" often through politically-motivated criminal cases.

"Other opposition lawmakers have faced similar treatment, in particular those who oppose Mr. Duterte's so-called war on drugs or other key administration policies, such as his efforts to bring back the death penalty or to revise the Constitution, most likely in order to remove limits on presidential terms," she said.

De Lima cited the case of her fellow opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros who was charged with kidnapping for sheltering underage witnesses to the murder, by police officers, of a teenage boy, among other charges.

With Congress now stacked with Mr. Duterte's allies, De Lima feared how it can now be easier for Duterte to push forward problematic policies that would grant the executive branch even more powers.

De Lima, a former justice secretary, reminded Mr. Duterte of his sworn Constitutional duty to serve the interests of the majority of the Filipino people and not his own vested interests.

"Mr. Duterte was elected very comfortably in 2016, and his approval ratings remain very high. But the people of the Philippines voted him into office so that he would help the everyman and everywoman," she said.

"They did not vote him into office so that he could repress the legitimate, also elected, opposition and use his brutal drug campaign to cement his grip on power," she added.

De Lima, a staunch critic of Duterte's war on drugs and the rampant human rights abuses in the country, recently welcomed the resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council for a probe on human rights situation in the Philippines.

She called the resolution, which was rejected by the Duterte administration, as a "welcome step" and a "jumpstart" in the Filipinos' search for accountability for the gross human rights violations in the country under the current regime.

www.senate.gov.ph