Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the Duterte administration to heed Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s advice to stop abusing its power to get back at its critics and the leaders of the opposition, including herself and Sen. Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the present administration, said Mr. Duterte continues to undermine the country’s democracy and the rule of law by intimidating opposition leaders with illegal arrests and trumped-up lawsuits.
“If he is indeed the strongman that he projects himself to be, Mr. Duterte should stop using his power to silence dissenters and oppress opposition leaders, especially Sen. Sonny who does not cower at the threats of dictators,” she said.
“Instead of harassing opposition leaders, Duterte should listen to the advice of Datuk Seri Ibrahim by respecting human rights, upholding the rule of law, and strengthening our country’s criminal justice system,” she added.
Ibrahim who is in the country was asked by members of the press to give a piece of advice for Mr. Duterte following the President’s controversial revocation of the amnesty granted to his staunch critic, Sen. Trillanes, through Proclamation No. 572.
Ibrahim, said to be the next Malaysian prime minister, said, “I would certainly want him to continue to ensure that there’s a vibrant democracy and respect for the rule of law in the Philippines.”
Duterte earlier has issued an order “to pursue all criminal and administrative cases” against Trillanes in relation to the Oakwood mutiny and the Manila Peninsula incident, which happened in 2003 and 2007, respectively.
Ibrahim was also tried and jailed on various politically-motivated charges over the past 20 years was also asked to comment on the plight of De Lima, who is known here and abroad as Duterte’s fiercest critic.
“I also made my position known that except for a pure or specific criminal case or charge where due process is respected, I do not condone it, I do not agree, that political leaders, dissidents, journalists are treated in that manner,” Ibrahim noted.
The Senator from Bicol reminded the Filipino people to continue expressing their strongest condemnation against any attempt by Duterte and his cohorts to undermine the country’s democracy and to disregard human rights and the rule of law.
“Right now, Duterte’s tactic continues to be ‘you criticize me, I’ll go after you and put you behind bars because I have all the means to do it.’ He wants this to send a chilling effect to others who wish to oppose his policies,” she said.
“As intimidating as this can get, we should not allow Duterte’s evil ploy to stop us from speaking out for what is right and condemn what is unjust,” she added.
De Lima is the first to call for a Senate inquiry and later, for an independent fact-finding commission to investigate cases of extrajudicial and summary killings in the country, which earned her the President’s ire and eventually led to her illegal arrest and unjust detention.