By Macon Araneta | FilAm Star Correspondent
Sen. Leila M. de Lima on Monday filed a petition for a writ of habeas data in the Supreme Court (SC) to stop Pres. Rodrigo Duterte from securing private details about her personal life and using them to degrade her, and to hold him liable for the crimes committed, which is a test case against presidential immunity.
Accompanied by some women leaders and supporters donning black shirt with #LabanLeila, the Senator sought the SC’s order against the President and his men from collecting and using information about her private affairs to humilate her as a human being, a woman and a senator and beyond the dictates of their official functions or public concern.
“This is a good fight. I have the right to fight it so I am invoking my legal right to do so – even if I have to step into untested waters to do it,” she said during a news forum “Laban Leila, Laban Kababaihan: A Forum on Habeas Data and Women’s Rights” in a Manila restaurant.
She stressed that Duterte’s lofty position should not be used to perpetuate his personal evil designs against one woman.
In a 26-page petition, De Lima noted the several specific occasions where the President has repeatedly subjected her to crude personal verbal attacks which involved the wrongful
and unlawful collection and publication of her alleged personal affairs.
She also cited the verbal attacks made by Duterte during his previous press conferences, accusing her of having an affair with her former driver, Ronnie Dayan and likening her to an “x-rated actor” due to her alleged sex videos.
“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,” she said.
The former justice secretary clarified she is filing a case against Duterte for his acts that violated her womanhood and not with the President.
According to de Lima, Duterte is not just violating her rights but killing her every time he and his minions utter curse words against her. “He was killing me. Not even figuratively, but literally.”
“He had imposed his own brand of death penalty by bullying, through the misuse, abuse and exploitation of the power of the Office of the President and the might of the executive branch, with the complicity of certain members of the congress and professional trolls and bullies,” emphasized De Lima, the President’s fiercest critic in the Senate.
According to the Senator, she continuously receives hate messages and death threats in her social media accounts and cellphone after the President linked her to illegal drug trade. She also claimed that Duterte’s agents listen to her phone calls. “They are that bad, that rude,” added De Lima.
She recalled that the President admitted that his personal grudge against her can be traced back to the time when she, as then chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, investigated him for his alleged link with the dreaded Davao Death Squad while he was the local chief executive of Davao City a few years back.
She also pointed out that the President’s personal tirades against her escalated when she initiated a Senate investigation into the spate of extra-judicial killings and summary executions carried out in the name of the government’s war on drugs.
Being then chair of the Senate justice and human rights committee, De Lima presented in the Senate hearing on extra-judicial killings, which she initiated, Edgar Matobato, self-confessed hitman of the Davao Death Squad.
Matobato testified that Duterte ordered the killings of suspected criminals and personal enemies during his incumbency as Davao Cith mayor. Duterte has repeateldy denied the charges and insisted the DDS was merely concocted by his political opponents in Davao in a bid to destroy him.
De Lima argued Duterte’s personal verbal attacks and threats against her blatantly violated Republic Act (R.A.) Nos. 6713 and 9710, also known as “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees” and “Magna Carta of Women,” respectively.
A compact disc containing video and audio recordings of the President’s personal verbal attacks against the Senator in public was submitted as evidence for the High Court’s review.
She also submitted an assessment report by Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio, a respected psychologist specializing in women’s concerns, about the psychological effect inflicted by President Duterte’s acts and utterances against her.
“They (attacks) blatantly violate R.A. 9710, which prohibits psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, and requires that all officials of the State ‘refrain from discriminating against women and violating their rights,’” her petition claimed.
Apart from asking the High Court to stop the President and his men from gathering personal information about her private life, De Lima also asked that these illegally-obtained pieces of private information should be deleted, destroyed, or rectified.
She also asked the High Court to bar the President and his men from making public statements that malign her as a woman and degrade her dignity as a human being; sexually discriminate against her; describe or publicize her alleged sexual conduct; constitute psychological violence against her; and otherwise violate her rights or are contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public policy, and/or public interest.
De Lima also sought the Court’s order compelling the President to identify the foreign country that reportedly helped him listen to her private conversation, the manner and means by which he listened to it, and the sources of information about her private affairs.
“This ‘show(s) that he (the President) has been collecting information or has caused the collection of information about petitioner’s private life through unlawful means in order to achieve unlawful ends – to vilify and shame her in public,’” the petition added.
Her petition also contained a long list of samples of hate messages sent to her via short message service and social networking site, notably Facebook, calling her offensive, vulgar names and even issuing vile threats against her personal safety and security.
Dean Jose Manuel Diokno, De Lima’s legal counsel, said Duterte blatantly violated the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees which provides that public officials shall at all times respect the rights of others, and shall refrain from doing acts contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public policy and public interest.
Diokno emphasized that the President’s utterances, which constitute slut-shaming, sexual harassment and psychological violence against petitioner – are in clear violation of the oath of office.
In a news conference after the filing of the petition, Diokno contested that the verbal attacks of Duterte against de Lima are not covered by his immunity from suit as it has nothing to do with his duties and responsibilities as President.
“The rationale (for Presidential immunity) does not apply here because his personal attacks against the petitioners are not part of his duties and functions as the President; the attacks are blatantly unlawful; and the suit for habeas data does not involve a determination of administrative, civil or criminal liability.”
“This is a ground-breaking case. This is unique because it is the first time that a case is filed directly against a sitting president,” said the Dean of De La Salle University College of Law.
A sitting president enjoys immunity from suit to ensure that he or she can exercise his duties and functions of running the country’s affairs free from any hindrance or distraction.
He said the main question they will have to argue about is if the sitting president can use his office to wage a personal vendetta against another official in violation of her privacy, liberty and security.
He expressed hope that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of de Lima and order the President to stop from putting her name to shame and threatening to destroy her.