How can Leila de Lima expect to win?

Senator Leila de Lima, already in prison for over four years, announced she is seeking re-election in the May 9, 2022 elections. She is making it look like a symbol of her continuing protest to what she describes as oppression and injustice in the hands of the Duterte administration. Her trial for alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade when she was Secretary of Justice is on-going, and her efforts to have the charges dropped on demurrer to evidence failed. Only one in three was dismissed. Hence, she will stay in jail until the other two cases are resolved and if she is found not guilty.

In case De Lima has forgotten, she landed number twelve in the 2016 elections. That’s despite the massive propaganda spending with money allegedly siphoned from contributions of convicted drug lords, the Andy Bautista-engineered Smartmagic and the Liberal Party political jaggernaught that also propelled Senator Franklin Drilon to be number one.

This time, she’s in prison. Her media mileage is limited to her occasional rants on Twitter and Facebook amplified by a sympathetic mainstream media. Most of the Filipino people scorn her. The most powerful image of her in the public mind is a powerful woman with a strong lust for bodyguards and drivers. She does have supporters — Democratic Senators in the U.S. and liberal parliamentarians in Europe. However, that kind of support is meaningless because that is largely being ignored by Filipinos.

Pulse Asia’s latest poll survey placed De Lima at a tie for 33rd to 37th places with only 7.5% rating. Former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, another hated political figure, fared better with 17.3% to tie for 19th to 29th places. With those numbers, it would really be a stretch of the imagination for De Lima to hope she could win.

But then she’s got nothing to lose. It’s the only way for her to stay relevant in the public discourse. It is “suntok sa buwan” in Tagalog. Her problem is that if and when she loses, and she ceases to be Senator by June 30, 2022, De Lima will probably lose her privilege as a celebrity inmate which has entitled her to a special cell in Camp Crame. By July 1, she might have to be transferred to the Muntinlupa City Jail just like other ordinary people accused with crimes undergoing trial.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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