In “Suits,” a popular American TV series that ran for eight years, a senior lawyer was fired by the firm’s managing partner for fabricating evidence to win a lawsuit.
The television legal drama showed situations when lawyers bluffed their way and did all sorts of things to win cases, including selling out colleagues and clients.
One of the show’s stars was the future Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, who fell in love and married a fake lawyer, Mike Ross, played by Canadian actor Patrick Adams.
Markle, who played the role of another lawyer, Rachel Zane, left the show in 2018 after she married Prince Harry of the United Kingdom.
The TV series brought to life the dark side of the legal profession — betrayal and blackmail — but also showed the value of friendship and loyalty.
In the Philippines, a real-life legal drama has been playing out in the drug-related cases against former senator Leila de Lima who has been under detention for six years.
De Lima’s crime was simple. She had investigated and tried to pin down Rodrigo Duterte who was mayor of Davao City for nearly three decades, for thousands of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) carried out by so-called Davao Death Squads (DDS).
Duterte had full control of Davao City, cleaning the city’s streets of petty criminals, like pickpockets, muggers, and street-level illegal drug peddlers.
A Catholic priest had actually documented nearly 1,500 EJKs under Duterte from the early 1990s until mid-2010.
De Lima, who was the head of the Commission on Human Rights, even went to Davao to personally lead the investigation, exhuming a suspected mass grave of Duterte’s victims.
She continued the investigation when she was appointed justice secretary by the late president Benigno Aquino III, and served from 2010 to 201t6.
But fate changed when Duterte was elected president in 2016. De Lima was unfazed, raising the same issues when she won a seat in the Philippine Senate.
This time, de Lima expanded her crusade to hold Duterte accountable when the former president took his drug war nationwide, killing more than 6,000 people during his term.
Human rights groups estimated that the actual deaths could go as high as 12,000 to 30,000 because the police had stopped counting.
The drug war killings continued even after Duterte stepped down from power in June 2022.
De Lima was the biggest thorn on Duterte’s side. He wanted to get back at her and silence her, making de Lima an example of how not to challenge the president.
It appeared that Duterte’s justice secretary concocted evidence to link de Lima to an illegal drug trade inside the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP) to put her away.
Duterte’s justice department enlisted fake witnesses, including convicted felons, to build up a case against de Lima.
Using social media, Duterte’s government also spread disinformation to destroy her image and reputation, inventing stories about alleged sex videos with her driver.
The fabricated evidence and trumped-up charges began to unravel when witnesses started to come forward and take back their testimonies, including the son of a Leyte mayor who was killed inside his detention cell and a former prison official who said he had delivered drug money to the former senator’s house when she was the justice secrefary.
As a result, two of three judges handling de Lima’s fake drug cases have decided to dismiss the charges, after the witnesses had recanted their testimonies.
The drug cases do not have a leg to stand on. It is just a matter of time for de Lima to win back her freedom once the third judge rules on her motion to bail.
The lawyers behind the fabricated charges against de Lima should be held accountable for their vicious actions.
They deserve to be disbarred and forbidden to practice law again.
They also deserved to be in jail and experience the same misery de Lima had in detention.
De Lima may not be interested in getting back at her tormentors but there should be brave people who will run after Duterte and other officials behind de Lima’s detention.
They clearly fabricated the charges, coerced some witnesses to testify against her, and wove fantastic stories to malign and discredit de Lima.
In the TV series “Suits,” the fraudulent Mike Ross went to jail for practicing law without graduating from a law school and without passing the bar.
It’s about time the people behind de Lima’s detention be held accountable and go to jail. The lawyers who invented evidence, coerced some witnesses, and built up fake drug charges should be stopped from practicing law in the country. They are a disgrace to the legal profession.
Duterte, a lawyer and a former prosecutor, might have participated in these sham drug-related cases.
He should also take the fall, not only for the fabricated cases but for the thousands of Filipinos who were killed in his brutal and bloody war.
De Lima must be freed and Duterte and his men should be in jail for eternity.