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Sen. Leila M. de Lima’s Statement on President Duterte’s Rebuff on Asian Women’s Leaders’ Call to Release Her

Like a thief who suddenly becomes self-aware that the evidence of his crime is sitting in plain sight, the President is attempting to surreptitiously, yet futilely, kick dirt to cover his crime by backtracking on his constant public lashings and attacks against me.

Out of the blue, the President suddenly remembered the sub judice rule and why he, as Chief Executive, should know better than to make public statements that prejudge and undermine the presumption of innocence of an accused, whose case has already been filed by his own prosecutors before the courts.

This, after women parliamentarians from the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), represented by lawmakers from Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong called on him to desist from politically persecuting me, and to set me free. In response, and after claiming ignorance as to what grounds he ought to do so, he suddenly invoked the fact that cases are already filed with the courts.

"Out of the blue" is, of course, not accurate. I have no doubt that the President is suddenly exhibiting uncharacteristic discretion and self-restraint because of the observations made by former Senator Rene V. Saguisag, who has commented once again that there is no way that I could get a fair trial: not after the President and his men - but especially the President, who has the power of control and supervision over the Executive department, and the power to appoint judges and justices to judicial posts - have been publicly commenting on my guilt.

As Sen. Saguisag pointed out, if a police officer, NBI investigator, prosecutor or judge wants to be promoted, or otherwise wants to avoid the wrath of an unhinged, vindictive and powerful man like Rodrigo Duterte, they would just follow what he had already publicly declared. And, up until now, as countless embarrassing recordings would attest to, this President has had no qualms about persecuting me, of adjudging me guilty, and even sentencing me to go hang myself.

No amount of backtracking can erase those shameful and shameless tirades now. By his own acts, he has prejudiced my right to a fair trial by effectively poisoning and impairing the independence of the courts.

But his attempt, too little and too late it may be, only goes to show the strength and validity of the protestation made by the esteemed former Senator and respected human rights advocate.

Alongside his weak attempt at self-correction, he nonetheless continues to peddle lies by pretending not to know on what grounds he should effect my immediate release. Such pretensions is unbecoming of the self-professed strongman that the President projects himself to be.

Of course, he knows on what grounds: on the grounds that the charges against me are all fabricated, based on the perjured statements of convicted felons; that even the perjured testimonies they provided are grossly inadequate to support the finding of probable cause; that the charges filed are even inconsistent with what little evidence the prosecution has; and, most of all, this is all part of my political persecution for daring to stand up for human rights and against EJKs.

The President knows what he and his men have done. And he knows he has the power to order prosecutors to withdraw the cases against me in order to rectify a monumental wrong. Unfortunately, he does not have the guts to man up to it, and do what is right--free an innocent woman, and stop the killings of his own people.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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