By Herbert Vego
TO “give me five” is to hit someone’s open hand with your own in greeting or celebration. Let us give it to someone whose name says so.
After almost seven years of life in jail for an uncommitted crime, former Senator Leila de Lima, 64, is out on bail. And because her incarceration sprang from her vocal campaign against then-President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs,” it is anybody’s guess that Judge Gener Gito of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Muntinlupa City would acquit her within the year.
There is nothing in the court records to show that she had received drug-related money to fund her 2016 senatorial bid. What she had done was launch an inquiry into Duterte’s anti-illegal narcotics campaign.
On the contrary, when she won and occupied a Senate seat in that year as chairperson of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, she presented surprise witnesses to probe the linkage of President Rodrigo Duterte to the Davao Death Squad and alleged extra-judicial killings of pushers in Davao City during his incumbency as mayor.
De Lima had fought the same crimes during her time as chair of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) during the time of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and as Secretary of Justice of President Noynoy Aquino.
It was unfortunate that her fellow senators refrained from coming to her rescue. No less than Sen. Manny Pacquiao moved to remove her from the chairmanship and membership of her committee. Sixteen senators voted yes, 4 voted against, and 2 abstained.
De Lima furiously reacted, saying “it’s a numbers game, it’s a political move.”
I don’t have to enumerate succeeding events that sent her to jail, where she was made a “sample” to dissuade other legislators from colliding with Malacañang.
Not once had the Supreme Court faulted Duterte.
De Lima equates the Duterte presidency with “undeclared martial law”.
We have heard Duterte “defenders” blame President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for letting the RTC decide as it did. They have become used to “unity” among the executive, legislative and judicial branches, which, in a true democracy, wield separate powers.
They cite “foreign intervention” behind the responses of foreign governments to her release on ₱300,000 bail.
To quote the European Union ambassador to the Philippines, Luc Veron, “I am very pleased by the news of De Lima’s release.”
Bryony Lau, the Canadian deputy director for Asia of Human Rights Watch, waxed more acerbic: “She should have never been unjustly persecuted, prosecuted and detained by the men of former President Rodrigo Duterte, whose administration concocted evidence and used the machinery of an abusive state to punish her for performing her duties.”
Sad but true, why must it take foreign intervention for us to regain democracy?
REMEMBERING BOY QUE
HAS it been ten long years already?
“Yes, exactly two days from now,” fellow journalist Nelson Robles reminded me, referring to the death of our friend Dr. Alejandro “Boy” Que on Nov. 17, 2013.
We knew him as the friendly and popular Filipino-Chinese prime mover behind the family-owned Days Hotel and the Supermart chain of malls and grocery stores in Iloilo City.
Boy had a soft spot for the Iloilo media. He would often ask us to spend a few minutes of chit-chat with him in his inner sanctum at Washington Supermart on JM Basa Street.
It was there where I last saw him alive. By then, he was undergoing chemotherapy.
“I am sick, Bert,” he said.
“You will recover,” I quipped. “You’ve been through it in the past.
That must have appeased him because, indeed, he had caught nasopharyngeal cancer before but recovered to tell his story.
“Bert, what can I do for you?” he asked. A Rotarian and Freemason, he had always encouraged us, his less fortunate friends, to seek his help.
“Oh,” I remembered what I had to say. “I am here to congratulate you for having been conferred an honorary doctorate degree by the University of Iloilo.”
Five years ago, I wrote about Boy’s legacy of philanthropy, which his siblings and children still pursue with greater vigor through the Dr. Alejandro “Boy” Que Foundation, which is engaged in sponsoring college scholarships for the poor but deserving students.
The foundation shaped up in December 2013 or one month after the untimely demise of Boy at age 64.
We have lost count of the foundation scholars who are now successful, just as we have lost count of the new Supermart branches.
Indeed, as the Bible says in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
PRE-CHRISTMAS ELECTRICITY REFUND
MORE Power’s good news to power consumers of Iloilo City: You will be enjoying a rate reduction of ₱2.76/kWh for the billing period November 18 to December 14, 2023.
Therefore, if you deduct this amount from the current rate ₱10.55 per kilowatt-hour, your one-time discounted bill would only be ₱7.79/kWh.
This generous rate reduction represents a refund of pass-through charges in compliance with the Energy Regulation Commission (ERC) Resolution No. 14, Series of 2022, which adopted the “Revised Rules Governing the Automatic Cost Adjustment and True-up Mechanisms and Corresponding Confirmation Process for Distribution Utilities.”
The regular rates without this one-time refund will resume on the next billing cycle.
However, after this, there is a chance for rates to go lower than ₱10.55 because of the downward trend in generation cost in the past nine months.