There’s a slugfest going on in the Philippines between President Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Leila De Lima. After Duterte exposed De Lima’s alleged affair with her personal driver, De Lima went on to counter it by saying the President is engaging in character assassination. Her supporters were equally shocked and outraged that Duterte would resort to a “low blow”. After all, it’s none of our business what the Senator does during her private time as long as she is not breaking any law. And besides, it’s not like Duterte does not engage in a little hanky-panky on the side. In fact, he admits to having a number of girlfriends so what’s his problem, right?
I personally do not care about De Lima’s love life. In fact, news of her alleged affair with her driver is old news. It’s an open secret among Netizens. There’s even an alleged sex video that has been making the rounds all over the Net for ages. I think people share the link but don’t bother to view it for fear of what they might see. I’ve since always thought De Lima was cool with people knowing about it. What’s odd is why De Lima now acts shocked about the revelation but at the same time still does not categorically deny if the allegations are true.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t condone personal attacks. I have been against it for six years when former President BS Aquino was doing it to his enemies. Perhaps half a decade of exposure to BS Aquino persecuting his enemies like former President Gloria Arroyo even when she was sick has desensitised me, which is why I don’t feel shocked anymore now that Duterte is doing it. What I am trying to say is, naming and shaming had already long been a tradition of BS Aquino’s former administration. The exercise is not new. De Lima usually echoed what BS Aquino said in the past. She became some sort of an attack dog of the Liberal Party particularly since she was the Department of Justice Secretary.
We recall that in her effort to please BS Aquino, De Lima defied the temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court in 2011 and proceeded to bar Arroyo from leaving the country. It’s still a mystery why she has not been disbarred for her actions. We also recall how she became a witness against the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial. At the witness stand, even when she struggled to justify why she thought Corona was corrupt in favouring rulings for respondents in some cases, she continued to act like her statements were factual. It was so apparent that she was relying on mere gut feel. She has this habit of issuing statements condemning the object of her attention even when there is no evidence to back her claims. And that is precisely why Duterte got fed up with her.
De Lima already has a history of speaking against Duterte when he was still Davao City Mayor but De Lima has been issuing statements lately against the Duterte administration’s war on drugs and making the members of the Philippine National Police look like the bad guys. The Senate investigation on extra-judicial killings hasn’t even started but she had already been speaking before the media and painting a doom and gloom scenario and making it look as if the police are responsible for the spate of killings. Duterte feels that her statements are not good for the image of the police who are already suffering from negative publicity. The bottom-line is, for all of De Lima’s incessant yakking, concrete evidence to prove that the police are abusing their power has yet to be presented.
De Lima seems to have this personal vendetta against Duterte and in her quest to pin him down, she is inadvertently pinning down the rest of the police force too. It’s quite bizarre that she would do that considering she used to work closely with the police during her stint in the Department of Justice. Some say that she is like a loose cannon.
What I don’t understand is why the outrage of some members of so-called “civil society” is six years late in coming. I do understand that they hate the way Duterte is dealing with De Lima because he is not following “due process”. But where was their outrage when BS Aquino was doing the same thing to his political enemies? It is very hypocritical of them to call out Duterte now when the previous President was guilty of doing the exact same thing. They say what BS Aquino did was not the same because he did not divulge private information about Arroyo’s sex life. Well, it’s probably because he had nothing to expose when it came to Arroyo’s sex life. But the point is, BS Aquino ruined Arroyo’s reputation in the Philippines and abroad when he relentlessly bashed her at every opportunity especially when he had speaking engagements abroad. As a result, a lot of people still think she is guilty of all the allegations he threw at her despite the not being found guilty by the courts.
While I do not condone Duterte’s naming and shaming, I think people are forgetting that BS Aquino’s behaviour during his term set a precedent for what we are seeing now. Rabid supporters are just not used to seeing members of the Liberal Party being on the receiving end of Duterte’s jabs. Duterte has become their worst nightmare. Now they are playing the victim card and using the “woman” angle too. It’s not fair to use gender as a defence against your opponent. Whether you are a man or a woman, if you are doing something wrong, it needs to be exposed.
It’s a bit of an exaggeration for some to think that Duterte is just doing this to stop De Lima from investigating those so-called extra-judicial killings. He may have been unfair in exposing De Lima’s affair with her driver but if the other allegation is true – that her driver also serves as a gofer between her and some drug lords, then their relationship could be a vital piece of information needed to solve the puzzle. Let’s just hope that Duterte knows what he is doing. Otherwise, this is another episode that will erode the moral fibre of Philippine society. It could be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back.
For her part, De Lima should own up to the truth and admit the parts that are true. Denying anything at this point is useless because the truth has a way of coming out especially for people who had been careless during their heydays.