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[Pulitikultura] Free Leila Now!

Marian Pastor Roces


[Pulitikultura] Free Leila Now!

And so it comes to pass that the serpentine minds of our leaders slither in the direction of Senator Leila de Lima, in jail for no valid reason whatsoever for five years.

They kept her on their peripheral vision through the election season; but now are relaxed enough to refocus on the one person who knows the full extent and detail of their pillage.

It is implausible that the Marcoses and the Dutertes had nothing to do with Senator Leila narrowly missing assassination while hostaged inside the maximum security custodial center at Camp Crame last Saturday. Even for the zombies: there’s neither a twisted nor reasonable way to think that hostage taking, by prisoners, could have happened without Godfatherly initiative.

The Filipino is no ingenue. In this town, a critic as high profile as Senator de Lima is not offed by chance. (Neither was Percival Mabasa, whose executioners succeeded.)

That all three perpetrators were shot dead may or may not have been good police work. Still, the police forces have developed this habit of leaving no one alive who can talk.

That the hostage takers were Abu Sayyaf members may or may not have been par for the course, for a place keeping “high value prisoners.” But a simple kidnap-for-ransom sortie, ASG style, inside the national headquarters of the Philippine National Police, is not swallowed easy.


In fact, it is not easy to get to the area where Senator de Lima is held. Well inside Camp Crame along a secondary street, entry is through a concrete box/room where ID’s are collected, names are checked, and packages and bodies checked.

Visitors enter the box and exit it into steps onto a long-ish “road.” It is bordered on the left by a

tall concrete wall. It is topped, at more than 10 meters, with razor wire in multiple coils. Another box/room ends this passage. There hardly room in it for more than the two guards asking for another sign up. A narrow walkway extends at an angle from this sentry point.

The visitor receiving room is approached through a twist from the sentry point into an even narrower corridor—this one wedged between buildings. The receiving room has three small doors that are locked. The windows have curtains, which when pulled aside shows yet another corridor, fenced in by cyclone fencing. This corridor is barely a meter wide.

Senator de Lima is incarcerated in a space that few see, at the end of that corridor. It usually takes her some 5 minutes to walk to the receiving area from her cell, after being informed that her appointment has arrived.

This warren is not easy to run around in.


The probabilities of hostage taking in this spatial setting have to be calculated by the right security experts. This is not the prison block in the usual imagination.

Senator de Lima’s neighbors are people like Princess Nova Parojinog, the daughter who survived the massacre of her Ozamiz family by Duterte police for drug trafficking; and once, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla. They had their own rooms, as Senator de Lima has.

Stabbing the policeman delivering food to the inmates (this is the story) happened where, exactly? And how, in the quickness of things, did the ASG prisoner know how exactly to get to Senator de Lima’s cell?

And why was he going for Senator de Lima?

If it was an attempted prison break-out, as the story has it, more questions begged. How far away from Senator de Lima’s quarters are the ASG prisoners’ cells? How did they get out of their cells? How were they aware of the warren to her cell?

And, again, by what quick or premeditated calculations did they think Senator de Lima would be their ticket out?

The probabilities that a simple narrative of botched escape explains this incident are small.

The possibility of political watchers confining themselves to the surface of things is non-existent.

Free Leila Now!

A number of possibilities can be seriously entertained. One is that this is all a smokescreen for larger manueverings, concerning Senator de Lima’s fate, involving the holders of the highest powers in the Philippines. She fought human rights abusers of the most malefic sorts and drew fire. It is undeserved. Free this honorable woman now.

Marian Pastor Roces works internationally as an independent curator, critic of institutions, and analyst of culture and politics. Through her corporation, TAOINC, she curates the establishment of museums. She is also a founding Partner of the think tank, Brain Trust, Inc.​She has long argued that governance, civil society action, and policy making in the Philippines are weakened by the absence of cultural analysis. Such analysis, in turn, needs to work with updated data. Hence Pulitikultura, Roces’ platform for probing the intersection of culture and politics.

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