One could say that senatorial candidate Leila de Lima has a hate-hate relationship with presidential aspirant Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, whom she described as a “monster” that must be stopped.
The former justice secretary painted a grim scenario under a Duterte presidency in a roundtable interview with Inquirer reporters and editors on Tuesday night.
“(His actions) should be scrutinized and we should be really concerned and really scared. He’s very scary… It’s not at all a laughing matter,” De Lima said.
“(Duterte’s) formula (in curbing criminality) would wreak havoc… on society as a whole,” the sharp-tongued De Lima added, referring to the Davao mayor’s promise to stamp out drugs and criminality within three to six months should he win the presidency.
“He has become a monster… There has to be concerted actions (against him),” said the Liberal Party (LP) senatorial candidate.
De Lima’s adversarial relationship with Duterte started when she led an investigation into the existence of the Davao Death Squad (DDS), a vigilante group behind the death of suspected criminals in Davao, when she was still chair of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) during the Arroyo administration.
In a previous televised interview, Duterte had boasted that he was supporting the vigilante hit squad. “I am the DDS,” he was also quoted as saying, though he quickly backtracked and claimed he was just joking when the statement caused a stir.
Recalled De Lima: “I subpoenaed him (to a public hearing) and asked him about his take on the DDS, particularly on the case of a man who went missing after he was picked up by the police.”
Duterte was “rather subdued in the public hearing of the CHR and I really lambasted him,” the former CHR official said. “He can never forget me because I took him to task. Maybe he has not forgiven me,” she added.
But De Lima said voters should not make light of the Davao mayor’s penchant to brag about his involvement in extrajudicial killings. He has all the makings of a fascist leader, she warned.
Like a phantom, the former justice secretary said she would haunt Duterte’s administration should he be elected President, just as she would stay critical of his leadership should she win a Senate seat.
“I’m the first to speak against (Duterte). I used to be the lone voice in the wilderness,” she said.
Sense of impunity
“Every time he says something about the persons he supposedly killed, I promptly react. I’m never silent when it comes to Mayor Duterte’s braggadocio. I can’t stand his sense of impunity,” she said.
De Lima said she would “strongly urge people to… undertake a movement to reverse” Duterte’s popularity among voters, including those belonging to the ABC socioeconomic classes.
“He’s now number one (in the surveys). Where is that (support) coming from?” she asked. “It’s extremely frightening and disturbing.”
The former justice secretary said she could not understand why people would choose to believe Duterte’s grand promise of ending criminality and the illegal drug trade within the first six months of his presidency when he had not even tried to present a coherent plan in combating crimes.
Duterte’s rival, LP standard-bearer Mar Roxas, had questioned the mayor’s campaign promise, pointing out that Davao remains one of the cities with the highest number of recorded crimes in the country.
“We know what method he wants to use and we know that it cannot be done,” De Lima said. “How in heaven’s name can you eradicate criminality, including drug-related criminality, in three to six months? It’s a complete illusion.”
The public, she added, should hold Duterte accountable for the controversial remarks he made on the Australian lay missionary who was gang-raped and killed inside a Davao prison in 1989.
His statement on the incident, De Lima said, was “a classic Duterte, classic in its brazenness and its utter depravity.”
“I don’t understand the accolades and the jeering for this kind of a hate speech,” she lamented. “No matter how you look at it, rape and condoning rape is never acceptable in whatever form.”
“It’s not a joke. How can it ever be a joke? Anyone who enjoys talking about a rape victim is actually indulging in hate speech—hate for women, hate for victims of rape. How can we ever tolerate that?”
But the former justice official also admitted that the rise in Duterte’s following was an “indictment of the justice system” and mirrored the people’s frustration with the country’s snail-paced judicial process, as well as the perceived worsening criminality.
“But is that the solution?” she asked. “It sounds cliché, but that’s why we need to fix the system. This is one of the main reasons I want to join the Senate—to help fix the justice system… by filling up the gaps in the laws and the existing legal mechanisms.”
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