The Daily Manila Shimbun


Esperon said no destab plot following arrest of de Lima

February 24, 2017

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon assured on Friday that there was no destabilization plot amid the arrest of an opposition senator and rallies by different groups this weekend.

"I don't think there should be anything to worry about. This is a weekend of celebration," Esperon told reporters in an interview after the 31st anniversary commemoration of Edsa People Power Revolution in Camp Aguinaldo.

Different civil society groups, including the millennials, are set to hold rally at Edsa Shrine and People Power Monument on Saturday.

While the government commemorated one day ahead the People Power uprising and did it in a simple way, those who participated in the historic event 31 years ago vowed that they would not allow February 25 to pass unnoticed.

Duterte supporters are also set to hold a two-day prayer vigil at Luneta Park in Manila. The gathering is called as People's Support on Duterte's war against illegal drugs, corruption, criminality and poverty.

The pro-Duterte group is also organizing similar activity abroad, including Japan.

Asked if the government is not concerned that the arrest of Senator Leila de Lima could be used to incite people to go against Duterte, Esperon said such move would be funny, noting that the senator was "a secretary who made narcotics to proliferate in the Philippines."

Illegal drug trade allegedly proliferated inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City when De Lima was justice secretary during the previous administration.

De Lima, who was arrested Friday for illegal drug trade case, has been denying the allegations.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said there was nothing political in the charges filed against De Lima, the number one critic of Duterte.

"It's a criminal case filed against her. It's not a political case," Medialdea told reporters in an ambush interview.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, in a separate statement, assured that De Lima will be treated with fairness and accorded due process.

"She will have the opportunity to defend herself and prove her innocence," he said.

He said De Lima has nothing to fear, citing the assurance made by Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa.

De Lima has been brought to PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.

In a television interview, Abella said De Lima's detention in Camp Crame might be temporary.

"I think it's a temporary situation and she will be brought to the right quarters at the right time as soon as her process of being taken in is finished, is done," he said. Celerina Monte/DMS