Dear Senator Leila de Lima

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It is not a woman thing, Madame. Or a gender thing. Nor is it about misogyny, sexism or a battle of the sexes.

This is the 21st century – when man, woman and child are spoken in the same breath as having equal rights with lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, person with disability and person with special needs – up and down the whole spectrum of what is known as humanity.

Women have demolished so many glass ceilings since Biblical times when they were not even included in census-taking. We have fought many battles over the ages – acquiring our right to vote, competing successfully against men for the right to occupy the corner office, becoming heads of state of several countries, piloting airplanes, traveling to outer space, going to war as active combatants. Heck, we even burned our bras to signify our liberation from whatever it was that held us prisoners in the past.

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And now your supporters are invoking womanhood as your way out of the crisis you are currently facing? Are we going to flash the woman card whenever we feel we are being bullied by men? No, ma’am, your being a woman has nothing to do with it.

It is a character thing. Or what an ancient sage said about character being intertwined with one’s destiny. That fate is not preprogrammed, or determined by outside forces but by a person’s inner self, or their own hands.

You are in a tight spot today because of your own making, po. You chased the wind, to be Scriptural about it, right from the get go. Nobody thrust you into the limelight but yourself – with cameras following you while digging graves in Davao as chair of the Commission on Human Rights in 2008.

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Then, as the newly appointed Secretary of Justice, you headed the committee that investigated the hijacking of a tourist bus in Luneta on August 23, 2010 where 25 people, mostly Hong Kong tourists, were taken hostage by one gunman – a disgruntled police officer who felt unjustly dismissed from service and demanded a fair hearing.

To recall, the 11-hour standoff placed the Philippines on the spotlight of international ridicule as the whole episode was watched in real time around the world. The botched rescue operation resulted in the death of eight Chinese nationals and the straining of relations between the Philippines and Hong Kong (and consequently, China), with the latter blaming the deaths to “incompetent handling” by Philippine authorities.

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The investigating body submitted their findings in a report that was mostly ignored by the new president, B. S. Aquino III. You made noises about resigning if such report would be disregarded – which, in essence was, because none of the persons who were determined to have bungled the operation were ever charged criminally or administratively one year after the incident.

But you did not resign and instead clung to your post as Secretary of Justice. That was your first test of character.

Fast forward to the spectacle at the airport on November 15, 2011 when you effectively prevented former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from leaving the country to seek treatment abroad even as there were still no cases filed against her at the time and the Supreme Court issued a document allowing her to travel.

Your exact words then were: “My order is a denial of the request for an allow departure order,” sounding like you were above the highest court of the land and looking like too much power has taken over your head.

GMA was never allowed access to media to air her side. No laptops and cell phones throughout her “hospital arrest” even if she has not yet been found guilty of any crime. Contrast this with the blatant use of cell phones by convicted criminals inside the New Bilibid Prisons under your watch. And your propensity to call the media every time you feel the need to contradict President Duterte. (“May gusto ba kayo sa akin?” Ugh.)

The loud hysterics in full view of TV lights at the press conference you called a few minutes after the “riot” at Bilibid with a prepared statement had startled netizens suspicious of its haste and readiness. Your behavior was totally shocking, and unexpected. The strange thing was, no one has accused you of being complicit in the incident. Have we just seen the real Leila de Lima?

It might do well for you, madam senator, to ponder on these words by Charles De Gaulle: “Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own.”

Do you honestly think that you have passed the test of character, dear Senator?

And no, it is not an Every Woman issue. Not every woman walks the corridors of power like you do. Not every woman has the intelligence that you obviously possess. Not every woman is fortunate to be endowed with a good education and a comfortable life such as you have.

Not every woman is accused of protecting the drug trade inside Bilibid. Not every woman is suspected of receiving drug money from notorious criminals. Not every woman has an alleged sex video. And not every woman is given the opportunity to occupy high office but allows her exalted position to be ruined by indiscretions.

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The issues that concern Every Woman are those that feed her stomach, nurture her mind, strengthen her body, uplift her spirits, and nourish her soul. Issues that will allow her to live a decent life by dint of hard work and self-sacrifice. Not the perorations of One Woman trying to portray herself as a helpless victim being oppressed by the full and mighty force of Government. You have been down that road before, ma’am, but you were conveniently on the other side.

And much as I want to sympathize with you on account of being a fellow woman, I cannot. I could not. I will not.

Because it is an individual thing, Senadora. Wala pong kinalaman ang lahat ng kababaihan sa tawag ng inyong pangangailangan.

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