De Lima’s dilemma
If President Rodrigo Duterte will have his way in this first-ever relentless fight to end the drug menace in this country, its casualties will not just be billionaire drug lords and their protectors but one female senator in the person of Sen. Leila de Lima.
By turns, the attacks and counter-attacks are getting nastier by the day. Already other legislators from the Lower House are now openly commenting that the former Justice secretary-turned-senator should stop chairing the senate hearing on extrajudicial killings now that she herself is accused of being party to perpetrating via her driver the drug trade and one of its many alleged nerve centers, the Bilibid Prisons.
But therein lies the dilemma that confronts the senator. As former human rights commissioner and then Justice secretary under former president Benigno Aquino III, she is not expected to just keep quiet with the death toll piling up as drug protectors and drug lords are now cleaning up their mess to save their skins from the death penalty that is certain to be re-imposed if President Duterte will have his way.
If we go by the accusations now hurled against her by no less than the President, she may not after all be the best person to rally the crowd. At its worst, she is being painted as someone who has had a part in the drug menace which her boss, the former president, even appeared to be so ignorant about.
What makes the whole issue even more intriguing is that a retired police general, Marcelo Garbo, who was the most active operator of her own Liberal Party, has been accused of frontline involvement in the drug trade.
It is not far-fetched therefore to imagine whether during his six-year reign Aquino just turned the other way while narcopolitics — the deadly combination of drug money fueling preferred electoral victories to ensure a drug-friendly governance — took its sway in this country.
Nor is it equally far-fetched to imagine if the political fallout following this nasty dynamics between Duterte and De Lima will eventually open up a can of worms and finally show whether it was really an unstated policy during the previous dispensation to let drug lords operate where they wanted while government would feign ignorance, at best, or turn the other way, at worst. I know one mayor who allegedly reported the drug menace in his town to a former local government secretary only to be told not to be involved and just turn the other way.
True, there were drug raids during the term of Aquino; but they pale in comparison to what Duterte has achieved: 600,000 surrendered drug users and a spate of arrests nationwide and the open shaming of local government officials and even judges alleged to be involved in this menace. Note that this is just barely 50 days with him in Malacañang.
Never have we seen such an actively vociferous President weighing in every moment of the day to address this drug menace head on, even as he also tackles corruption issues, pursues peace with communists and Muslim rebels and carries out an economic agenda that will, among others, finally end labor sub-contracting.
We are finally witnessing a President with massive outpouring of fearless political will. He has even announced his praise and recognition of governors including two in the Visayas who come from the Liberal Party, the major political party which vilified him in the last elections.
It is clear that this President does not act according to party lines by favoring only his own political party, unlike the previous ones.
There are no favors given and none taken. It is along this line that Sen. Leila de Lima must tread carefully as she walks barefoot on a path strewn with shards of her past.
While it is understandable that she has taken the cudgels for the victims of extrajudicial killings, which we must all condemn loudly, she must also reflect carefully on how she can help rid this country of the drug trade that, without doubt, grew before her nose when she was still part of Malacañang.
At best, it is time for her to explain why her president did not have the balls to confront the drug menace head-on the way Duterte is now doing.
The Filipino people deserve to know how the past six years contributed to this problem that now grips the nation. We deserve nothing less.
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