Trillanes calls on Senate to defend De Lima, press freedom, right to life

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Wednesday, February 21, called on his colleagues to defend Senator Leila de Lima, as well as press freedom and the right to life, with his remarks challenged by President Rodrigo Duterte's allies.

"Bilang mga senador ng bayan, alam natin ang tama at mali. Umaasa sa 'tin ang ating mga kababayan na itataguyod natin ang wasto at nararapat. Alalahanin natin sila. Proteksyonan natin sila," Trillanes said in a privilege speech on Wednesday, February 21.

(As senators of the nation, we know what's right and wrong. Our countrymen depend on us to push for what's right and just. We should keep their welfare in mind. We should protect them.)

Trillanes claimed De Lima is innocent and merely a victim of so-called political persecution. He said De Lima was imprisoned only because Duterte wanted revenge.

"Isa siyang simbolo ng injustice at pagyurak sa human rights, rule of law, at demokrasya sa ating bansa. Ngayong isang taon ng kanyang pagkakakulong, isipin natin ang ating kasamahan na si Senador Leila de Lima. Tulungan natin siya; ipaglaban natin siya," he said.

(She's a symbol of injustice, and of human rights, the rule of law, and democracy getting trampled on in our country. One year since her detention, let us remember our colleague, Senator Leila de Lima. Let us help her; let us fight for her.)

February 24 would mark De Lima's first year in prison following drug charges against her, which she claims were fabricated by no less than Duterte and his allies.

Press freedom

Trillanes also called on senators to fight for press freedom, after the President himself banned Rappler from covering Malacañang. (READ: Roque: Rappler reporter barred because 'bwisit sa kanya ang Presidente')

"Sana po ay magkaisa ang Senado sa pagprotekta ng press freedom sa ating bansa as this is one of the pillars of our fragile democracy. Tumindig tayo para sa kanila. Ipaglaban natin sila," Trillanes said.

(I hope the Senate will be united in protecting press freedom in our country as this is one of the pillars of our fragile democracy. Let us stand up for them. Let us fight for them.)

Trillanes said Duterte's moves against Rappler and other media are similar to his strategy against De Lima. He also alleged that Duterte influenced the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke Rappler's registration.

"Lahat nang ito ay ginagawa ni Duterte (Duterte is doing all of these) out of political vendetta and to send a chilling message to other reporters and media outfits that they should tow Malacañang's propaganda line or else," Trillanes said.

Senator Manny Pacquiao, in response, told Trillanes that the President had no hand in the SEC decision against Rappler.

"The revocation of the license of Rappler is not from the President. What I believe, according to the review of SEC, they violated the law," said Pacquiao.

Rappler is challenging the decision of the SEC before the Court of Appeals (CA), and can also elevate the case to the Supreme Court (SC) if necessary. The SEC itself said its decision is not yet final and executory.

Extrajudicial killings

In his speech, Trillanes once again reiterated his condemnation of the extrajudicial killings brought about by the Duterte administration's drug war.

Citing the accomplishment report of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Trillanes claimed there have been more than 20,000 deaths.

According to the data, Malacañang listed 3,967 drug personalities who died in anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to November 27, 2017. This number represents those who allegedly fought back or resisted arrest.

The government also listed 16,335 homicide cases under investigation from July 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017, under the section titled "Fighting Illegal Drugs."

Trillanes claimed this means that there have been 20,322 drug-related deaths under Duterte.

"They basically admitted that there are no so-called vigilante killings and that these deaths are actually state-sponsored executions. Kasi bakit naman isasama ang mga pagpatay ng vigilantes sa yearend accomplishment report ni Duterte? Sa madaling salita, sila ang gumawa ng lahat ng mga pagpatay kaya nga accomplishment. I believe the ICC would be very interested to know this new piece of information," Trillanes said.

(They basically admitted that there are no so-called vigilante killings and that these deaths are actually state-sponsored executions. Because why would they include vigilante killings in the yearend accomplishment report of Duterte? In other words, they were the ones behind the killings that's why they consider it an accomplishment. I believe the ICC would be very interested to know this new piece of information.)

But Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, party mate of Duterte, questioned the opposition senator's assessment of the statistics.

"Why are you lumping together the 3,900 plus and 16,000 plus, that all of them are EJKs when in fact they are under investigation?" Pimentel said.

Trillanes said the data are part of the government's accomplishment report, which means the government is "proud" of the killings. After all, he said, the 16,335 homicide cases were listed under "Fighting Illegal Drugs."

In response, Pimentel said: "That's the workload of the PNP (Philippine National Police) and they wanted to announce the number. My point is, why do we keep on insisting it's now 20,000 which should be answered for by the Duterte administration?"

Trillanes replied: "Kung under investigation, bakit nilagay sa 'Fighting Illegal Drugs,' at kung sasabihin mo vigilante killings, bakit kine-claim mo na ang credit?"

(If the deaths are under investigation, why were they placed under "Fighting Illegal Drugs," and if you're going to say those were vigilante killings, why is the government taking credit?)

Pimentel then said that the "better attitude" should be to pressure the PNP to report its findings for the deaths under investigation.

Trillanes said the Senate and the SC did exactly that but to no avail. Solicitor General Jose Calida earlier refused to provide the SC with full documentation on drug war deaths.

"People can choose to be naïve or to be technical or to be sanguine about life. But ako po (me), I'm coming in here eyes wide open. I'm calling him (Duterte) out dahil maliwanag sa 'kin lahat ng ito (because everything is clear to me)," Trillanes said. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.

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