Triumphant Leila

Triumphant Leila

“Marcos’ attitude was unlike that of both former Presidents Duterte and Arroyo.

Former Senator Leila De Lima's celebrated case momentarily pulls back the judiciary system from veering dangerously into uncharted shoals. A point legal eagles supporting De Lima's cause generally agree on following last week's crucial grant of bail by a Muntinlupa court in De Lima's last pending case.

The bellwether point, in this case, is the consequential political issue that the judicial system needs to preserve its integrity and independence, even in a case fraught with unwarranted political persecution.

Maintaining the judicial system as a sanctuary of integrity and fairness, even in political cases, in fact, was even an ideal of the martial law era Supreme Court, which, as one law professor pointed out, "did not countenance a prosecution that was biased, vindictive or political."

It's no use denying then that the De Lima case was political persecution or that De Lima was not a political prisoner as some dismissive former Duterte administration officials and fanatical supporters are wont to do.

Lawyers, of course, can debate themselves hoarse on the merits of granting De Lima temporary freedom. This, despite Judge Gener Gito's finding that the evidence against De Lima's wasn't strong.

Still, devilishly convincing legalisms, in the end, sounded parochial compared to the larger picture. And the larger picture is that the De Lima case had gone beyond legalism and into the realm of politics.

Independent-minded Filipinos, in fact, now see the incessantly vilified and demonized Ms. De Lima essentially correct when she first denounced the cases as "political persecution" way back on 17 February 2017.

This was particularly after her cases were strangely perverted with suspiciously unreliable testimonies from convicted drug lords, some of whom subsequently recanted.

Not only Filipinos but also independent foreign observers, like officials and legislators of the European Union and the United States, reached similar conclusions.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller, for instance, commented Tuesday on De Lima's "nearly seven-year detention on politically motivated drug charges."

Significant, too, is the fact that during her 2,454 days in detention, De Lima could have elected for some sort of political settlement of her cases. But she never did.

As her legal adviser, Tony La Viña, put it, she "never negotiated a political conclusion to her cases, to be released for political reasons, either with Duterte or Marcos."

Wanting the judiciary to do its job and to do it properly was obviously — and still is — De Lima's decisive position on her travails.

By a quirk of fate, Marcos somehow was of the same mind.

Immediately after her release and subsequent press conference, De Lima said she appreciated the Marcos administration for "respecting the independence and the rule of law."

As to why Marcos took the hands-off route about De Lima, speculations, months before her release, had it that Marcos's sympathetic attitude stemmed from the fact that he had nothing against the former justice secretary, whether personal or political.

Marcos' attitude was unlike that of both former Presidents Duterte and Arroyo. Both undeniably took De Lima's exercise of professionalism when she was a human rights official and justice secretary as personal affronts.

Nonetheless, Marcos' intentions regarding De Lima remain nebulous at best, with some speculating that earlier, he didn't want to needlessly expend political capital by risking his alliance with the Duterte camp.

But with De Lima's release, it now seems that Marcos has enough political capital of his own to risk even his alliance with the Dutertes.

De Lima, meanwhile, has vowed to begin redeeming her name. "They destroyed and ruined my name, my reputation. Now that I am free, I am going to work hard to redeem my name, and complete vindication is the key," she said.

Fighting for redemption, by and large, indicates De Lima isn't politically dead.

And whatever she says or does in the days ahead will surely involve political personalities answering uncomfortable questions in the vein of former Senate President Franklin Drilon's query: "Who will answer for the sufferings of De Lima due to unwarranted charges?"

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