Asian women leaders confident De Lima will be vindicated in time

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Women leaders belonging to the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) have expressed optimism that Senator Leila M. de Lima will be vindicated from the trumped-up illegal drug charges filed against her by the Duterte administration, especially now that she continues to gain support from international groups and leaders.

In a letter they sent last Nov. 23, CALD Chairperson Abhisit Vejjajiva and Secretary General Kiat Sittheeamorn said the right time will come for the public to realize the Senator’s innocence amid incessant efforts by the government to tarnish her reputation.

“We are convinced that you will be vindicated in the end, and that your call for the protection of human rights and respect for the rule of law will eventually drown populist voices and resonate to all freedom-loving Filipinos,” they said.

As the only regional alliance of liberal and democratic political parties in Asia, CALD has expressed support to and vouched for De Lima’s innocence since she turned herself to arresting authorities last Feb. 24.

A day after De Lima’s arrest, CALD issued Resolution No. 1 S. 2017 expressing alarm over what it referred to a “creeping authoritarianism” in the Philippines as it called for the immediate review of the dubious charges the Duterte administration filed against De Lima.

During the CALD Women’s Caucus Conference in Taipei, Taiwan last Aug. 11-12, the regional group passed Resolution No. 3, S. 2017 reiterating its serious concerns over De Lima’s continuing detention even as it appealed to the Senate leadership to allow De Lima to fully carry out her duties as a duly elected senator.

The convenors of the CALD Women’s Caucus, led by its chairperson Jayanthi Balaguru, along with former Chair of the Hong Kong Democratic Party Emily Lau and Maysing Yang, vice president of Taiwan Foundation for Democracy on Aug. 31, even visited De Lima in her detention to check on her condition as a “prisoner of conscience” and discussed with her the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.

Noting that De Lima will always have an ally in CALD, Vejjajiv and Sittheeamorn vowed to continue to support the Senator as she tirelessly defends the cause of freedom and democracy even while in detention.

“We feel there are still more initiatives to explore to help you and your cause,” they said in their letter.

The two women leaders also congratulated De Lima for bagging the prestigious “Prize for Freedom” Award in 2018 conferred by Liberal International (LI) in recognition for her outstanding efforts in defense of freedom and human rights.

“We truly believe you deserve [the award] as you exemplify the audacity to fight for what is right at whatever cost,” they said.

During its 199th Executive Committee meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa in October, the LI has announced it is conferring the Prize for Freedom – the global federations’ highest human rights honor — to De Lima.

According to LI, De Lima will be the second to accept the Human Rights Prize, after then President Corazon Aquino in 1987, who was recognized “for her world-renowned advocacy of democracy, peace, and the empowerment of women.”

The women leaders also praised De Lima for showing “remarkable courage” in standing up for the rule of law and human rights despite the political repression she is subjected to under the current administration.

“Your sacrifice has been an inspiration to many of us who continue to fight for the cause of freedom and democracy in our respective countries,” they said.

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