MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Leila de Lima may be up for yet another criminal case following her strong statements against President Duterte.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said De Lima could again be held liable for calling on the people to rise up against the President, who she branded as a “psychopathic murderer and dictator” during a press conference at the Senate on Tuesday.
De Lima is already facing charges of drug trafficking.
“She should be careful about her statements, she was already inciting to sedition,” Aguirre stressed yesterday.
Inciting to sedition is an offense punishable under Article 142 of the Revised Penal Code and is committed by a person inciting others to accomplish any of the acts which constitute sedition, “either by speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, cartoons, banners or other representations tending to the same end.”
It also involves uttering seditious words or speeches against the government or its officials.
Aguirre cited De Lima’s statements calling for public action against Duterte.
De Lima was quoted urging the public to speak out against crimes allegedly being committed by the President, although she did not call for armed struggle to oust him.
De Lima said Duterte, whom she accused of being liable for the killings of the Davao death squad, is “the number one criminal in the Philippines, if not the world.”
In Duterte’s defense, Aguirre said De Lima’s allegations were “totally baseless.”
Aguirre said he sympathizes with De Lima who, he said, “is under a lot of pressure lately.”
He called on De Lima to just face the cases in court.
“As a former secretary of justice, Senator De Lima should know that the real battle is in the courts. She should do the fighting there, answer all the charges against her there and present credible evidence in her defense there and not in a press conference,” he said.
Solicitor General Jose Calida echoed Aguirre’s position.
“Senator De Lima’s latest tirades against President Duterte and the government clearly show why she is the high priestess of hypocrisy,” Calida said in a statement.
“She should stop acting like a vacuous victim and crybaby. My unsolicited advice to her is: face the charges with equanimity and dignity befitting a senator,” he added.
Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra sees no cause for alarm over De Lima’s call for the people to come out to show disgust over Duterte.
“No, there’s nothing criminal about that. If it’s inciting to rise up in arms against the government, then I guess that’s the one that would be of concern,” Guevarra said.
“But otherwise, if it’s just a call to everyone to gather together, to express their sentiment and so forth and so on, that’s actually freedom of expression and assembly,” he said.
–Jess Diaz, Christina Mendez, Jaime Laude, Jose Rodel Clapano, Artemio Dumlao