De Lima is the only political figure deserving of the accolade of hero in this dark era – Bello


Share on facebook
Share on twitter

Former Rep. Walden Bello has asserted that Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima is the only political figure in this dark era of Duterte reign he believes to be deserving of the title “hero” not only because she refuses to surrender to President Duterte but also because she is the only one who has consistently demanded accountability for his regime’s abuse of power.

In his article “Leila de Lima: Filipino political prisoner refuses to surrender to despotic Duterte,” published in Wall Street International last Aug. 12, Bello, a highly respected academician and great thinker, said De Lima became Duterte’s “Public Enemy No 1” for telling the Filipino leader that she would not rest until she secured his conviction and imprisonment for the extrajudicial killings in his murderous drug war.

“When decades from now, a later generation of Filipinos look back on the Duterte presidency and ask themselves how on earth so many of their forebears could elect a murderer to be president and applaud him as he went about his bloody business for six years, it is likely that the only person they will regard as deserving the accolade of hero in this dark era when most other political figures ran for cover is Leila de Lima,” he said.

Bello described Duterte and De Lima’s story as a political drama right out of Shakespeare (Richard III) or Costa Gavras (think Z) wherein he said that a crusader for human rights investigates the deeds of a murderous local despot.

“He tells the country he will get even and force the ‘bitch’ to swallow a CD where he says he heard her say she would make him accountable for his crimes against humanity. He becomes head of state and carries out his threat with a frame-up that is so brazen that it succeeds in making people distrust their own instincts about her innocence,” he said.

“All it would take for him to release her is if she crawls to him for forgiveness, but she refuses. Instead, from jail, she becomes his most formidable critic and her imprisonment becomes the symbol of all that is wrong with his darkening rule,” he added.

Bello, a senior analyst at the Bangkok-based Focus on the Global South and the International Adjunct Professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton, further said that the next episode of what he described as a real-life drama is still being written, noting how she decided to run for reelection from detention and made his conviction for the thousands of lives he has taken the centerpiece of her campaign.

“The despot increasingly gets worried. What if he fails in his bid to get his daughter or his sidekick to succeed him? His implacable foe could eventually become the instrument of his demise with the time bomb of evidence she possesses,” he said.

“He [Duterte] increasingly launches into embarrassing monologues about her in public that show that instead of her breaking, it is he that is being unhinged by her. Time is running out. He has to do something while it is still in his power to do so,” he added.

In an Indictment letter addressed to Mr. Duterte last July 21, De Lima confirmed that she would seek reelection in the 2022 national elections, saying that the political persecution she has been subjected to by the Duterte regime only strengthened her resolve to fight for her advocacies.

Bello lamented how “time has not been kind” to the three bogus cases of the government against De Lima, whom he stressed was framed on false charges of being at the center of the illegal drugs trade and mercilessly flayed by President Rodrigo Duterte as an “immoral woman.”

“Her running for office from jail is not unprecedented,” added Bello. “In an earlier interview, Leila acknowledged that Duterte does have a charismatic appeal to many people that makes them overlook or excuse his bad side. She has been ‘defined’ by Duterte, and although that definition is false, it will impact her electoral chances.”

Bello, however, stressed that De Lima know that “while being the ‘Anti-Duterte’ is her greatest liability, it is also her greatest asset, and indeed should several senatorial slates vie in the elections and split the Duterte bloc.”

Even if she triumphs in the 2022 elections, Bello shared that De Lima “is realistic enough to know that an early release from jail is not in sight so long as Duterte manages to hold his grip on power through a pliable successor.”

“Asked whether she could envision a scenario where Duterte voluntarily gave up power, she said, ‘No. His only way out of the inevitable reckoning, whether in the Philippines or the International Criminal Court, is to stay in power, exile himself to China, or die. I don’t think he has immediate plans for the last two,’” Bello recalled.

“But if Duterte is playing the long game, so is Leila. Assuming death does not claim him in the foreseeable future, either he eliminates her or she locks him up in jail for the remainder of his life. Being surrendered to the International Criminal Court is not an option for Rodrigo Duterte, but neither is surrender to a despot an option for Leila de Lima,” he added. (30)

Access the copy of Prof. Bello’s article here:

Office of Senator Leila de Lima
Rm. 502 & 16 (New Wing 5/F) GSIS Bldg., Financial Center, Diokno Blvd., Pasay City

Trunk Lines:
(632) 552-6601 to 70 local no. 5750

Direct Lines:
807-8489 / (Rm. 16) 807-8580 /local 8619

© 2019 Office of Sen. Leila de Lima. All rights reserved.