The Supreme Court’s recent dismissal of her habeas data petition on Mr. Duterte may embolden attacks against women as it shows how political power can be used to escape the repercussions of abusing women like her, Senator Leila M. de Lima has warned.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, made the remark after the High Tribunal, in a resolution dated last Oct. 15, dismissed her petition for a writ of habeas data against Mr. Duterte on the ground that the President is immune from suit.
“While I respect the Resolution, I cannot help but think that the Supreme Court has allowed Mr. Duterte to hide, like a coward, behind the protection of the ‘Office of the President’ for his personal and despicable words and deeds,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 706.
“I cannot help but think that the Supreme Court’s decision has the effect of emboldening attacks against women by undermining the acts of two branches of government that passed a law protecting women, and stripping Filipino women of the protection that the judiciary is mandated to afford them,” she added.
The SC resolution, belatedly released to the media only last Jan. 22, ruled that ordinary suits against Mr. Duterte may be filed only after his tenure, either through resignation or impeachment, expires.
It may be recalled that De Lima filed the petition for habeas data in November 2016 after Mr. Duterte delivered derogatory speeches against her, arguing that Duterte’s public statements violate her rights to privacy, liberty and security.
In her petition, she also asked the High Court to stop the President from using government resources to gather personal information against her, noting how he had hinted that he was purportedly monitoring her through the help of a foreign country.
De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, maintained that she believes that the presidential immunity from suit is meant for the Office, and not for the man “who abuses its powers and destroys its dignity.”
“[T]he acts of the occupant of that Office attacking a woman, contrary to the explicit protections under the Magna Carta of Women—a law validly passed by two branches of Congress, including the Office of the President—may not fall within the ambit of that legal shield. Sadly, our Supreme Court held otherwise,” she said.
The lady Senator from Bicol said partisan politics should never be an excuse to gain a “get-out-of-jail-free card” for abusing women because no one is above the law.
“Not even if your surname is Duterte. Because Duterte the man, who harassed a woman for daring to exercise her right to participate in public discourse, is not Duterte the President. The Office of the President signed a law protecting women; it is the man who violates it. And for that he deserves no protection,” she said.
“This development only makes it clear to me that accountability for the wrongs done to me and being done to me by my chief oppressor, while he remains in power, lies in the global sphere, as exemplified by the recent actions from the US Congress and, earlier, the Opinion rendered last Nov. 2018 by the UNHRC Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD),” she added.
Last Dec. 20, US President Donald Trump signed the US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill which includes a provision banning the entry of Philippine government officials involved in De Lima’s “wrongful imprisonment.”
Early this year, the US Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution, logged as Senate Resolution 142, calling for De Lima’s immediate release from wrongful imprisonment and imposing Global Magnitsky sanctions against her persecutors or those “responsible for orchestrating her arrest and prolonged detention.” (30)