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WATCH | De Lima asks SC for writ of habeas data vs Duterte

Senator Leila de Lima and her supporters hold out their palms in a gesture of defiance as she files a petition for a writ of habeas data against President Rodrigo Duterte at the Supreme Court. (photo by Ernie Reyes,
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE 7 - 9:13 p.m.) Senator Leila de Lima asked the Supreme Court Monday morning to issue a writ of habeas data against President Rodrigo Duterte.

De Lima called her petition a “test case” and the “first in a series of legal offensives” against Duterte, who has publicly accused her of involvement in the illegal drug trade, at the same time vilifying her for her alleged amorous proclivities.

Malacanang downplayed the petition in a statement released by presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella:
"Senator Leila de Lima is apparently playing the gender card as a shield against mounting evidence of her ties with high-profile drug lords and the proliferation of drug trade in the Bilibid. By portraying herself as a victim, she seeks to distance herself from the intimate relationshops which were also intertwined with drug trafficking while she was DOJ Secretary. Senator De Lima’s filing of a petition before the Supreme Court is calculated to generate media noise to drown out the accusations against her."

The 26-page petition asks the high court to order Duterte to stop collecting information and materials from any source and use this to malign her. She said Duterte’s “shame campaign” against her violates her constitutional rights.


The "Rule on the Writ of Habeas Data" issued by the Supreme Court in January 2008 states: “The writ of habeas data is a remedy available to any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data or information regarding the person, family, home and correspondence of the aggrieved party.”

"This is a test case, a novel case against the power of the President in maligning me for his personal vendetta," the senator said. "I filed the petition para tumigil na siya (so he will stop)."

De Lima marched to the Supreme Court from a restaurant in Ermita accompanied by nuns and supporters from the Batobalani Foundation and #LabanLeila. 

The senator's counsel is noted human rights lawyer and founding dean of the De La Salle University College of Law Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno.

At a press conference later, De Lima said she was not filing the petition against Duterte as the president but as the person who happens to be chief executive and has "misused" and "abused" the powers of his office.

Calling Duterte a "berdugo," or executioner, De Lima said: "He started doing to me slowly what was done to victims of extrajudicial killings, he was killing me." 

She cited statements he made in which he admitted wanting to drive her to suicide.

"And there is Rodrigo Roa Duterte, a man who rose to power, and instead of seeing the opportunity to make the Philippines a truly better place for his people, his children, decided that he would use that to get back at me for the sins he thinks I committed against him and against those who helped him win the election," De Lima said.

The senator acknowledged that his utterances, which he used "to stone me to death," had taken a toll on her as she experienced sleepless nights, a sense of helplessness and hopelesness, and even shame. 

She questioned whether anyone still supported her, and had begun avoiding her hobbies like videoke and ballroom dancing.

However, she said, "I'm sick and tired of being a victim who's always on the defensive."

She admitted being tempted to stoop to the same mudslinging but said had she done so, Duterte, whose ego could not endure "even the slightest sting of criticism," would have won. 

"I refuse to purchase a quiet existence by stroking the ego of any man," De Lima said. 

Besides, she said, it was more important to keep fighting for the "important issues" or the public might forget the victims of extrajudicial killings, their families and orphaned children.

De Lima added that she had nothing to be ashamed of, nor had anything to apologize for, because she did not kill anyone or benefit from any illegal activity.

Diokno called De Lima's petition "unique I believe in two respects: first because it is a case directly against the sitting President, and second, because it involves his conduct, which we believe is outside the realm of his official duties and responsibilities, conduct that constitutes in our view sexual harassment, psychological violence, and slut-shaming against women."

"The question we have raised before the Court is simple: Can a sittng president use the resources of his powerful office to wage a personal vendetta against a person ... in violation of her right to life, liberty and security?" he added, noting that Duterte's campaign against De Lima was "not because she is a senator ... but from a long grudge" dating to when she chaired the Commission on Human Rights.

Citing public remarks in which Duterte "likened her (De Lima) to (an) X-rated artist, claimed she has propensity for sex" and accused her of specific sexual acts, Diokno said these "clearly and blatantly violate" the Magna Carta for Women, the  Code of Conduct for Public Officials and "the very oath of the president when he took office."

"We expect government will say he acted in his official conduct. But in our view, when a president acts in this manner ... the doctrine of presidential immunity from suit cannot be used as a shield," Diokno stressed. 

In her petition, De Lima cited several occasions when Duterte subjected her to crude personal verbal attacks in which he referred to the “wrongful and unlawful collection and publication” of her alleged personal affairs.

“These verbal attacks and threats leveled against me are not covered by presidential immunity from suit because they are not the official acts of a president. They constitute unlawful, unofficial conduct that have nothing to do with his duties,” the petition said.

“The rationale for the grant of presidential immunity is to assure the exercise of Presidential duties and functions free from any hindrance or distraction, considering that being the Chief Executive of the Government is a job that, aside from requiring all the office holder’s time, also demand undivided attention,” it ntoed.

“That rationale, however, does not apply here because (1) President Duterte’s personal attack against petitioner are not part of his duties and functions as Chief Executive; (2) these attacks on petitioner are blatantly unlawful and unofficial acts stemming from a personal grudge; and (3) a suit for habeas data does not involve a determination of administrative, civil or criminal liability,” it stressed.

Apart from asking the tribunal to stop Duterte and his men from gathering personal information about her private life, De Lima also asked for the disclosure of the name of the foreign country that supposedly “helped him” listen in on her affairs, the manner and means by which he listened in, and the sources of his information on her private life.

She also asked for an order to delete, destroy or correct the information gathered on her.

De Lima submitted as evidence a compact disc containing video and audio recordings of Duterte’s tirades against her and an assessment report by Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio, a psychologist specializing in women’s concern, on the psychological effect inflicted by these attacks. (with a report from Maricel Halili, News5)