A Stronger De Lima: Continuing fight for Democracy, Human Rights and Rule of Law

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On the occasion of marking the 1st year in detention of  Sen. Leila de Lima and launching her 1st electronic book

Commission on Human Rights, Diliman, Quezon City

23 February 2018

Good day to all of you.

This is the last day of the Novena Masses offered to mark my first year in detention.

For me, the Commission on Human Rights is a very fitting venue to culminate this meaningful event. For more than two years – from May 2008 up to the end of June 2010 – I held office at the second floor of this very same building.  Everyday, often even on Saturdays, I would walk the path from the parking lot, pass by the security guards at the entrance, up the stairs, past a few other offices, and into the Chairperson’s office.  The entire way, I would be met with happy greetings from colleagues, staff members and even the visitors we receive on a daily basis.  Though I may have transferred to the Department of Justice later, I never really left the CHR, the CHR family, or our causes – I just brought them with me to my new role and my new responsibilities.

Looking back, those days probably constituted the most carefree period of my entire public service career, though I didn’t know it then. But that’s how public service – and especially the defense of such ideals like human rights, which tend to constantly be under attack – is like: it never really gets easier, and the fight never really ends. So holding the culmination of the novena mass here is a reminder of that: this is not the end; this is but a continuation of a never-ending fight for the recognition and protection of human rights, for good governance in government, for the end to impunity, and for the triumph of the Rule of Law.

Because this is both a culmination, a beginning and a continuation, this is the best opportunity for me to thank every one of you who came to express your solidarity and words of encouragement. Aside from my family and my faith in God, your support is one of the reasons why I remain unshakeable despite the unrelenting attacks and political persecution that are intended to break me piece by piece.

You helped me thwart the intentions of those who want to destroy me. One year after having me illegally detained, they not only failed to suppress my spirit, they made it burn brighter and hotter. My calls, which once echoed in the halls of the Senate, are now heard all over the world – all because everyone here continued to support me in my time of personal need, and kept our collective campaign for human rights alive. It is no different from how we turned a P1,000-budget for the CHR from the insult it was intended to be, to one that rallied our spirit to fight harder.

We haven’t only remained whole, we also became stronger by demonstrating we can roll with the punches, and still come up swinging.

I feel very blessed to have good people like you by my side. Even though I am not here physically, I am with you in spirit.

Again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you very much.

Sa darating pong Sabado, isang taon na po buhat nang maipakulong ako sa ilalim ng mapaniil na rehimeng Duterte. Isang taon ng paglimita sa aking kilos, sa aking tinig, at sa kakayahang tuparin ang aking tungkulin bilang Senador.

Isang taon ng pagyurak sa aking pagkababae at pagkatao, gamit ang mga inimbentong kaso. Subalit sa kabila ng lahat ng ito, isang taon ito ng patuloy na paglaban, patuloy na pagtatrabaho at paglilingkod sa bayan.

Nito lang pong nakaraang Miyerkules, inihain po natin ang panukalang batas na Senate Bill No. 1699 o ang Human Rights Defenders Bill, para itaguyod at pangalagaan ang karapatan ng mga Human Rights Defenders. Napapanahon po ang ganitong batas dahil sa ginagawang pagtapak at pambabalewala ng rehimeng Duterte sa karapatang pantao.

Kailangan ang ganitong batas, sa pamumuno ng isang Pangulong nagbantang barilin at sampalin ang mga human rights advocates, na paulit-ulit na ginagawang joke ang rape, at inuutusan pa ang ating mga sundalo na barilin ang mga babaeng rebelde sa kanilang ari.

Higit sa lahat, kailangan ito, lalo na sa mga panahon  na maraming Pilipino ang ginagawa lang katatawanan at pinababayaan lang ang ganitong kalokohan ng pinakamataas na pinuno ng bansa. Kailangan ito upang muling maibalik sa kamalayan ng ating mga kababayan ang halaga ng paglaban sa ating mga karapatang pantao, bago pa dumating ang panahong sarili na nating karapatan o sa ating mahal sa buhay, ang tapakan at pagsamantalahan.

Without access to any electronic gadget and communication device, the written word is my only weapon while in detention. In these challenging times where the government aims to silence dissent, my pen and paper help me express my thoughts on important issues and share my feelings about my current situation.

I was informed that today is the launching of my first electronic book, “Dispatches from Crame I.” This contains a selection of more than 100 of my handwritten statements from my detention here at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center on topics such as EJKs of the war on drugs, governance, social justice, democracy and sovereignty, as well as personal reflections.

Malinaw po: Matagumpay man nila akong naipakulong, bigo naman silang tuluyang patahimikin ako. Sa ginawa nila sa akin, lalo lang nila akong ginawang mas pursigido, mas buo ang loob na panindigan ang aking mga prinsipyo, lalo na sa usapin ng hustisya, demokrasya at karapatang-pantao.

Nabalitaan na rin ninyo na umusad na ang proseso sa International Criminal Court (ICC) para panagutin si Duterte at ang ilan pang mga opisyal ng gobyerno ukol sa mga patayang dulot ng War on Drugs. Bilang ahensyang nagtataguyod ng karapatang pantao, nawa’y pagsikapan nating maging katuwang sa paghahayag ng katotohanan, at pagtataguyod ng hustisya para sa mga biktima at sa kanilang pamilya ng madugong kampanya laban sa droga.

Sa loob ng isang taon, nakakulong man, ginawa ko ang lahat ng aking makakaya para itaguyod ang aking mga adbokasiya. Dahil ang pagsusulong ng batas, bilang Senador, ang isa sa mga paraan ng paglaban ko, para tumindig sa aking mga prinsipyo. Sa ganito rin pong paraan, hindi ko nasasayang ang tiwala ng ating mga kababayan, at hindi ko binibigo ang inaasahan ng mga Pilipinong binoto ako.

         Sa darating na linggo, ipagdiriwang ang anibersaryo ng EDSA. Tiwala po akong mulat ang marami sa atin na narito ngayon sa mga banta sa ating demokrasya. Ang hamon sa atin: Buhayin ang diwa ng EDSA at patatagin ang ating pagkakaisa para panagutin ang mga pinunong ninanakaw hindi lamang ang ating kabang bayan, kundi pati na rin ang ating kalayaan at kinabukasan. Palayain natin ang bayan mula sa kasinungalingan at kawalang katarungan.

Let us not waver in safeguarding rights and our democracy. Let us fight for truth. Let us fight for justice. I truly believe that the time of reckoning will come, and we will all be vindicated for not being silenced and for not admitting defeat. 

Maraming maraming salamat po.  

Office of Senator Leila de Lima
Rm. 502 & 16 (New Wing 5/F) GSIS Bldg., Financial Center, Diokno Blvd., Pasay City

Trunk Lines:
(632) 552-6601 to 70 local no. 5750

Direct Lines:
807-8489 / (Rm. 16) 807-8580 /local 8619

[email protected]

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