Leila’s comeuppance

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It was Sun Tzu, the great Chinese war strategist, who said that if you wait long enough, you will see the bodies of all your enemies float down the river. This seems so apt in the case of jailed Senator Leila de Lima, who is now about to suffer the same fate of the people who crossed her when she was the all-powerful secretary of justice.

And so it is that De Lima, who once had the power to go after all the perceived enemies of her former boss, President Noynoy Aquino, stays in jail, according to the Supreme Court. And this time, there is nothing De Lima can do to defy the high court’s order, unlike when she refused to allow Gloria Arroyo to leave the country for medical treatment on the strength of a restraining order the tribunal had issued.

Voting 9-6, the high court on Tuesday, Oct. 10, ruled that De Lima should be tried in a regular court by regular prosecutors for the drug cases that she is facing. The senator had come to the Supreme Court asking that she be prosecuted in the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court, by the Ombudsman, instead of in a Muntinlupa trial court by ordinary prosecutors, who in all likelihood worked under her before.

De Lima has styled herself as the fiercest critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, whom she claims has taken her criticism of his administration personally. Once, De Lima was also supposed to have said that she never thought that Duterte could be so “vindictive,” forgetting that one of the most serious accusations against her was how she was a most willing tool for the president who took vindictiveness to its highest level ever - Noynoy himself.

But all of that was before De Lima was revealed to have actively participated in and abetted, according to the charges lodged against her, a thriving trade on illegal drugs that was based inside the New Bilibid Prisons. After it became clear in a series of sensational Senate hearings that the neophyte senator was actually one of the enablers of Bilibid-based narcotics syndicates, her carefully cultivated reputation as a principled critic of Duterte came tumbling down.

De Lima, despite her protestations that she was merely a victim of political persecution, became the highest government official linked to the drug trade. And now, she will stay in jail (or its country club version, anyway, the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame) until the charges against her have run their course, according to the decision of the highest court in the land.

Oh, in case you’re wondering: It was during the time of De Lima that the legal lines separating the DoJ and the Ombudsman were blurred to the point of near non-existence. In order to facilitate the filing of charges against people who held public office (like Arroyo, who became a Pampanga congresswoman in the hope that this would protect her from an avenging Noynoy), the two agencies signed a memorandum allowing “concurrent jurisdiction” of cases filed in either.

Now this same method of more effectively pursuing a variety of charges against people that De Lima and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, her principal collaborator in the prosecution and persecution of cases Aquino wanted filed against his perceived enemies, is being used against Leila. The irony should not be lost on the senator, as she ponders her fate and writes those tortured and torturous handwritten letters from jail and continues to mark the days of her incarceration via numbers posted on the door of her Senate office.

Of course, if you listen to Leila’s supporters, you will never note even the slightest tinge of irony in their statements made in defense of their incarcerated idol. They seem impervious to how Leila is just following in the footsteps of those she had unjustly condemned during Aquino’s time, when she and Morales were the chief implementors of Noynoy’s unrelenting campaign of political vendetta.

But things have a way of evening out in the end. And like those two bloggers who made wacky poses in front of Leila’s office, I, too, am happy that she stays in jail - if only to teach her a lesson on the temporal nature of political power.

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President Duterte promised a bank for overseas foreign workers. And now, Duterte has signed an order fulfilling that promise, with the creation of a new financial institution dedicated to the needs of the 10 million or so Filipinos toiling in foreign lands.

The proposed OFW Bank, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Land Bank of the Philippines, has the potential to significantly lower the remittance costs of Filipinos overseas. Commercial banks and money-transfer companies, after all, have long feasted on the $30 billion or so sent home annually by OFWs, who have to shoulder exorbitant rates charged by these firms that send their money to their loved ones here.

I also see the OFW Bank helping OFWs permanently returning home become entrepreneurs, especially by providing them with financial advice and loan facilities if they decide to put up small businesses where their particular skills and expertise can be maximized. Commercial banks, which are geared to service the needs of established businessmen, have not been very helpful to OFWs in this regard - and a dedicated bank can help a lot.