In our post-war history, I don’t think there has ever been a public paroxysm of hysterics by a member of the Philippine Senate as demonstrated by Senator Leila de Lima the other day.
Two things I found very strange in de Lima’s paroxysm of anger, though. First, there is usually an immediate trigger for such hysterical rage, some remark made by somebody that hits straight at the heart of another person’s ego, and unhinges him or her to go into a fit. In one such case involving President Duterte, it was a question during a media briefing how he would reply to President Obama if the US leader raised the issue of human rights abuses.
In De Lima’s case, however, no reporter asked any question that could have sent her through the roof. It was she who provoked herself: “Now we saw a news item quoting Speaker Alvarez saying that somebody must be out to silence (high-profile inmate) Sebastian,” she said calmly in her press briefing.
But her succeeding statements stunned the media, as she spoke in an entirely different manner and tone, as if suddenly possessed by some demon as in those exorcist movies, a reporter at the press briefing said. (If you don’t believe me, watch the video at http://www.adobotalkph.com/2016/09/video-hysterical-emotional-de-lima-bilibid-riot.html). From that point on she kept screaming, her voice breaking so that reporters thought she would then sob uncontrollably. (She didn’t and recovered from her victim pose to a defiant one, even slamming the sheets of papers she brought with her.)
Second, such loss of total control normally occurs at some unguarded moment. But De Lima displayed such behavior in a situation requiring one to be most guarded: a press conference, before national television and radio broadcasters.
De Lima isn’t a newbie in facing the press; she’s been doing this, occasionally when she was chair of the Human Rights Commission during President Arroyo’s time, and twice or thrice a week when she was President Aquino’s justice secretary for six years. De Lima, in fact, had been among the most interviewed members of Aquino’s Cabinet. She knows that one can’t lose control before the TV news cameras. In fact, she even seems to be so deliberate, so self-conscious in her English pronunciation.
Why would somebody allow herself to lose total control at a press conference, so much so that, really, she looked like arguing with someone in some back alley.
There are three explanations for these anomalies in de Lima’s public outburst.
First: De Lima simply shouldn’t be a public official at all, and definitely not a Senator. Our entire government system (and rule of law) is built on belief in reason, that it is the only way really to express one’s views, argue against others’ views, and to determine what’s needed to be done. De Lima, a lawyer at that, unless she skipped a lot of her classes, is supposed to have trained in law schools not to get provoked, to keep her cool, to argue using facts and reason. De Lima demonstrated that she, instead, believes in screaming and theatrics to express her views.
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wasn’t a lawyer, and she was so much unjustly persecuted by Aquino, with De Lima, in defiance of a Supreme Court order, even barring the ailing Arroyo from seeking urgent medical treatment abroad. She spent four years incarcerated for charges that turned out to be totally flimsy.
Has she ever faced nationwide TV, or even responded to reporters’ questions in the insane yet self-righteous way de Lima did the other day? Arroyo has been a portrait of dignity, in sharp contrast to the picture of crassness and vulgarity that was shown by de Lima.
Second: She lost it upon hearing news of the Bilibid Prison riot, in which drug lord Tony Co was killed and Jaybee Sebastian – whom two inmates claimed in the Congress hearings as having regularly given de Lima dirty money – was wounded, but alive. Sebastian now would spill the beans, and de Lima would be in big, big
trouble, which led her to panic so much she became delirious.
The third explanation is that de Lima’s atrocious behavior was really all scripted, a PR project, which, however, got out of control. Her PR operator must have told her: “Ma’am, you should act like Duterte’s poor victim, so much persecuted that you have become so angry, and then offer yourself to be taken as a sacrifice a-la Jesus Christ and shout: ‘Take me, I’m here.’ Then we’ll take care of the press. The banners will scream your cries of anger.”
But de Lima got so carried away by her role she overdid it, portraying herself as so deliriously angry she teetered on the verge of a breakdown.
Is that a preposterous scenario? The banner story of Philippine Daily Inquirer was de Lima’s main anti-Duterte line, “Stop this madness,” an ironic one, though, because her delivery of that line sounded like the speaker was going mad. The paper did not even report de Lima’s near-breakdown, which has been the talk of the town.
Compare that newspaper’s banner with those of other broadsheets, which reported the main news, not de Lima’s dramatic line that made her look like a heroine.
Whatever the true explanation is, De Lima has shamed herself severely I am astonished how she could still show her face in the Senate.