MANILA, Philippines - After hitting President Duterte from her detention, Sen. Leila de Lima now faces a gag order by prosecutors and which Malacañang supports.
However, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella yesterday was quick to douse speculations that the government is flexing its muscles to stop De Lima from exercising her freedom of speech.
“There is nothing new with the request of the handling prosecutors of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to impose a gag order on Sen. Leila de Lima’s cases,” he said.
Abella stressed the need to observe the subjudice rule on both parties speaking out over details of the case.
He added this will also prevent trial by publicity, while he urged the public to hear the merits of the case.
“Should the court grant the motion, we expect all parties to abide by it to preclude any undue pressure to the judge hearing the cases or any influence that may condition the minds of the public on the merits of the case,” Abella said.
Abella made the statement a day after government prosecutors asked the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court to prohibit all parties from discussing the cases against De Lima in public.
Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong said the subjudice rule is applied on all parties once the case is filed in court. The parties are prohibited from discussing the case in public.
Aside from De Lima’s lawyers and the prosecutors, Ong said the senator, the other accused and their lawyers as well as Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II should be covered by the gag order.
De Lima, for her part, decried what she described as mind conditioning tactics being employed by allies of the Duterte administration.
She lamented the moves to make it appear that something could happen to her while in detention at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
De Lima also condemned reports about her supposedly losing her mind as a result of her incarceration.
She cited reports circulating on social media about how she has tried to take her own life inside the detention facility. She said this was far from the truth and grossly exaggerated.
“These have been spread in fake pro-Duterte news sites and reinforced by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s statement that I should be detained in a mental hospital instead of the PNP Custodial Center,” De Lima said.
De Lima has been a popular subject of fake news articles being circulated over social media sites, most of which depict her as someone who could not handle her detention.
These articles purportedly originate from legitimate media networks but are posted on spurious websites bearing their names.
“My body may be incarcerated by the Duterte regime, but they cannot take away my soul and my soundness of mind. I continue to work as a Senator of the Republic, despite the limitations the Duterte regime has imposed on me as its political prisoner in order to stifle opposition and dissent against his murderous and incompetent government,” De Lima said.
“If I die inside Duterte’s prisons it is not because I committed suicide, but it is because the President has finally ordered me killed. In the unfortunate event that I die in prison, you all know who my murderer is,” she added.
Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo chided De Lima for besmirching the reputation of the President.
Panelo said the gag order should be implemented to prevent De Lima from further destroying Duterte.
“Because De Lima is using that medium to besmirch the reputation of the President. She cannot do that,” he said.
Panelo also downplayed De Lima’s attempt to project herself as a martyr.
He said De Lima lacks the persona to gain popular support and sympathy.
Panelo said a recent online survey showed many people even favored her detention. – With Marvin Sy