Be stormbreakers, De Lima tells fellow liberals

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged her fellow liberals to continue taking the lead in defending freedom and human rights amid sinister attempts by the Duterte administration to undermine the country’s democracy and silence dissent.

In her acceptance speech at the awarding ceremony of the 2018 Liberal International’s “Prize for Freedom” last July 28, De Lima said the defenders of the people from dictators, oppressive leaders and human rights abusers “can never rest.”

“[T]he enemies of democracy are not irrepressible. They may be megalomaniacs, but they are mere humans who fear free-thinking people whom they cannot control. Being mortal, they can be stopped and brought to justice,” she said.

“So if we maintain and defend the foundations of our freedoms – such as the [Universal Declaration of Human Rights], national Constitutions that recognize and protect democracy and human rights, and national and international institutions that uphold the rule of law – all together we can be stormbreakers – one that neutralizes a potentially devastating force, long before it can take hold,” she added.

De Lima’s acceptance speech was delivered by her brother, Vicente “Vicboy” de Lima II, during the awarding rites of this year’s Prize for Freedom in recognition of her “exceptional contribution to the advancement of human rights” held at Novotel Manila, Araneta Center last July 28.

LI President Dr. Juli Minoves conferred the esteemed award to De Lima in the presence of LI Deputy President Dr. Hakima el Haite, former Hong Kong Legislative Council Emily Lau and Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats Secretary General Kiat Sittheeamorn.

Also present were former President Benigno S. Aquino III, Vice President Leni Robredo, Liberal Party President Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, LP Spokesperson Erin Tañada, former Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr, and Reps. Kit Belmonte and Gary Alejano, among others.

Taking inspiration from the weather in writing her message, De Lima further likened tyrants and oppressors to “national and transnational disasters” whom human rights defenders need to protect the people from.

“They come bringing violence, destruction and terror to the populace. When they leave, they leave behind devastated nations, dead and dying people, hopelessness, helplessness, and a precarious world order,” she said.

De Lima said she and her fellow liberals are expected to protect the people–especially those who remain powerless and marginalized–from these national and transnational disasters. “We are the people in the lighthouses and watchtowers, who call out warnings that a destructive force is bearing down on us,” she said.

“We are the breakwater that protects the people from the pounding waves [and] the levee that regulates the flow of raging floods, that they may not devastate people’s lives, property and security,” she added.

The Senator from Bicol said any forms of defending human rights can work wonders, even as simple as by letting the new generation realize that human life and human rights are not opposites.

“That there is no dichotomy between the two. That one cannot be defended by trading it off with the other. That one cannot claim to fight for human lives, while their hands are stained red with the blood of their victims,” she said.

“That anyone who suggests otherwise is no better than a wolf that pretends to be a shepherd, and delivers the flock to slaughter. In the vernacular, that is the mantra of the bantay-salakay, or the guardians who themselves attack those they are guarding,” she added.

Despite being detained on trumped-up drug charges fabricated by the Duterte administration, De Lima said she humbly submits herself to the protection of democracy, freedoms, human rights and the rule of law.

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