Run, Leila, run!

By Herbert Vego

“NOT in my mind,” former senator Leila de Lima answered the press people who had been asking whether she would run for senator in 2025.

Foremost in her mind is to file charges against President Rodrigo Duterte as the mastermind behind the three dismissed illegal drugs-related cases which put her under detention for almost seven six years.

Having regained her freedom, however, she would surely be a shoo-in to win should she decide to lead the senatorial ticket of Liberal Party (LP).

And so, I shout, “Run, Leila, run!”

Her win would not only vindicate her; it would also raise doubts on the legitimacy of the 2022 senatorial race, where she ran but lost.  Only one candidate of the opposition, re-electionist Risa Hontiveros, made it.

Hontiveros has repeatedly called on authorities to pursue and hold accountable those who perpetuated “unfounded allegations” against De Lima, but to no avail. Hers is a voice in the Senate wilderness.

Sad to say, it was her fellow senators in the 18th Congress (2016) who voted to oust Sen. Leila de Lima, former Justice Secretary, as chairperson of the justice committee investigating alleged drug-related killings perpetrated by the police during the time of Duterte as mayor of Davao City. They replaced him with Richard Gordon who, at that time, was close to Duterte.

Her ouster came on the heels of Senate hearings where SP03
Arturo Lascañas and hitman Edgar Matobato confessed having killed drug dealers, pushers and users by order of the former Davao mayor.

So the public may know, the 16 senators who voted to oust De Lima were Wyn Gatchalian, Manny Pacquiao, Richard Gordon, JV Ejercito, Koko Pimentel, Migz Zubiri, Tito Sotto III, Alan Peter Cayetano, Panfilo Lacson, Joel Villanueva, Gringo Honasan, Sonny Angara, Loren Legarda, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, and Cynthia Villar.

Asked whether Pres. Duterte was behind the move, they said “no” and accused her of “political grandstanding.”

The four who refused to drop De Lima were Hontiveros, Franklin Drilon, Bam Aquino and Kiko Pangilinan.

This corner believes that with persuasion from LP President Edcel Lagman (Albay congressman), De Lima might eventually decide to run in order to form a strong slate and bring sanity back to the Senate.

Delima herself has named former senators Kiko Pangilinan and Bam Aquino, and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno to be among the LP “opposition candidates.”

There is no doubt that most of the incumbent senators are beholden to former President Rodrigo Duterte.

The incumbent dynastic pairs of Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano (siblings),  JV Ejercito and Jinggoy Estrada (half-brothers), Cynthia and Mark Villar (mother and son) violate the spirit of the Constitution.

As enshrined in Article II, section 26 of the Constitution, “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”

There have been attempts by a few senators and congressmen to pass an anti-political dynasty law but to no avail.

De Lima lamented that dynastic succession to political office, or dominance of political families in both national and local offices, has been more pronounced than ever under the present Duterte administration.

In an interview with the Senate-based media, she said, “The prevalence of impunity and lack of accountability enabled by Duterte has further engendered the culture on which political dynasties thrive, including the thirst for monopoly of power and dominance in patronage politics.”


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