Senator Leila M. de Lima, together with colleagues, supporters, friends and family, heard Mass inside the Custodial Center in Camp Crame and had lunch together on the eve of her 59th birthday.
Senators Sonny Trillanes and Risa Hontiveros were among those who took turns to greet De Lima a happy birthday as they shared stories about her.
Trillanes revealed that De Lima beat her by a day in filing a Senate resolution to investigate the extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
To those who think De Lima spoke out too soon against a popular President, Trillanes said De Lima “always had the full resolve to do the right thing with no regard for political calculations.”
Hontiveros, for her part, admired how De Lima, despite her detention, remains among the most hardworking senators for constantly filing bills and resolutions.
Alluding to the Maguindanao mass murder suspect who was recently allowed to leave jail to attend a wedding, Hontiveros also lamented the double standard when it comes to De Lima who was denied her plea to attend her son’s law school graduation and to argue for the Senate Minority’s petition in the Supreme Court on the Philippine withdrawal from the International Criminal Court.
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, meanwhile, said that his decision to become De Lima’s legal counsel in her drug-related cases was borne out of a “moral compulsion to do the right thing” after studying and finding the charges against the Senator to be “pure garbage”.
Hilbay said the 9-6 vote by the Supreme Court to dismiss De Lima’s petition to nullify her arrest may have been a legal defeat, but it was also a moral victory because the six justices who voted in favor of De Lima strongly asserted his client’s innocence.
Former presidential peace adviser Ging Deles said she is grateful at “how seriously De Lima took the peace process,” saying that even from detention she asked for a briefing on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and relayed to Senators her position in support of the BOL.
“She needs to be out there,” Deles said. “The peace process owes Senator Leila,” she added.
Former Congressman Barry Gutierrez said that De Lima has “proved her courage and determination” as Commission on Human Rights chair, especially when she investigated then Mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte over the Davao Death Squad killings.
Gutierrez also said that the integrity of the Department of Justice and the citizen’s trust in the agency was restored when De Lima became its secretary.
“It is not just her courage or bravery, but her seriousness and commitment to do a good job,” Gutierrez said about De Lima, adding that the Senator “sees public office not as a privilege but as a civic duty.”
“For doing her job right, this is what she gets,” People Power Volunteers for Reform Secretary General Aleta Tolentino said about the political persecution against De Lima.
Tolentino also said that visitors of De Lima are sad that the Senator remains detained, but upon seeing the “joy in her face” they are “enlivened, enlightened and inspired” by her.
Turning to the Senator, she said: “They can imprison you, but they can never imprison your spirit. Your spirit is free and your voice is heard.”