De Lima on loss, death penalty

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When she lost her favorite furry companion inside her detention quarters, Kittie, to diarrhea, Senator Leila M. de Lima found strength in words and finished reading a book in solitude.

The kitten’s passing last Thursday may have come as a shock for the Senator — Kittie, after all, was her second-favorite out of all the stray cats roaming around the compound; and with the loss of one, the regular congregation of cats in her quarters every night for dinner will never be the same again — but the loss allowed her to reflect about the value of life.

“Grieving over the loss of my favorite kitten ‘Kittie’, who died apparently of diarrhea the other day (N. B. Next only to ‘Blackie’, ‘Kittie’ was my favorite stray cat here in my detention quarters). I buried myself into virtually non-stop reading and writing, disrupted only by occasional shut-eyes and sighs of sadness remembering ‘Kittie’s playful antics,” she said in her Dispatch No. 125 from Crame.

Locked inside her cell with no television, cellphones or any electronic devices allowed for use, De Lima, who is the first “political prisoner” under the Duterte administration, spends most of her time reading books.

So, when she grieved the recent loss, De Lima resorted to reading another John Grisham novel entitled “The Confession,” whose narrative reminded her of no less than the administration-sponsored move in the Senate to push for the reinstatement of death penalty. A move she openly opposes.

“While fictional (yet stunningly realistic), I would proffer the story so poignantly depicted in this novel – a story of an innocent young man who spent 9 years in death row before he was executed under the harsh laws of Texas, U.S.A., and ultimately exonerated posthumously–as a most compelling argument against the reimposition of death penalty now being pushed by our bloodthirsty and power-drunk President,” she said.

“After reading the last page of ‘The Confession’, one would feel a momentary numbness and horror about the prospects of wrongful convictions under a notoriously fractured law enforcement and criminal investigation processes, and flawed legal and judicial systems such as ours,” she added.

It may not have been signed into a law yet, but the bill seeking to reimpose the death penalty on heinous drug-related offenses has been approved on third and final reading at the House of Representatives.

As a known human rights defender, De Lima vowed to fight any move to re-impose death penalty in the country, which had been outlawed during the Arroyo administration.

At the very least, the former chairperson on Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said she hopes that Senator Manny Pacquiao along with her other colleagues in Congress — both anti-and pro-death penalty advocates — would find time to read the thriller by Grisham, and realize the threats death penalty law can bring to the justice system in the country.

“Even glossing over the scenario of wrongful and unjust convictions, I painfully ponder–how many innocent men and women out there, hold up in crampy and severely congested jails, are awaiting trial for crimes they did not commit? How many are suffering the same fate as mine? Victims of a most grievous wrongful indictment, a gross injustice…” she said.

Even during the Aquino administration, De Lima had always been vocal against moves by some quarters to reintroduce death penalty law which she said is especially deleterious and prejudicial to the poor.

She filed filed Senate Bill (SB) 368 which seeks to establish the penalty of reclusion perpetua or life sentence to 50 years with no possibility of parole as an alternative to death penalty as punishment for those convicted of extraordinary heinous crimes, such as trafficking, terrorism, kidnapping, carnapping, rape, murder, plunder, among others.

Although detained for trumped-up drug charges fabricated by the Duterte Administration, De Lima still performs her duties as senator by filing bills and resolutions.

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