For the second time, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has celebrated her birthday in detention today in a simple gathering attended by families, friends and colleagues such as Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Sen. Sonny Trillanes.
During her speech in the gathering, De Lima thanked her visitors for attending the celebration, which happened on the eve of her birthday (Aug. 27), even as she expressed gratefulness for their unwavering support for her.
“There are a lot of things that can be agonizing or can leave us feeling exasperated and frustrated, especially with the many injustices happening in our country, but I want to consider this day — the eve of my birthday — as a day of thanksgiving,” she said.
“Despite my unjust detention, there are a lot of things to be grateful about. I remain to be grateful for the unwavering support from my family, staff members, lawyers, supporters, former colleagues in the Aquino Cabinet, and my colleagues in the minority both from the Senate and House of Representatives who continue to fight with me and for me,” she added.
De Lima’s birthday celebration was marked by a Holy Mass officiated by Bishop Pedro Arigo, along with Fathers Robert Reyes, Flavie Villanueva and Albert Alejo inside the Custodial Center of the Philippine National Police, in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
Aside from Hontiveros and Trillanes, De Lima’s visitors include other prominent personalities including Reps. Gary Alejano, Edgar Erice and Erin Tanada, lawyers Florin Hilbay and Barry Gutierrez, former Commission on Elections chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., former social welfare secretary Dinky Soliman, and former peace adviser Ging Deles, among others.
A smiling De Lima made sure to commend her colleagues in the minority for tirelessly fighting for justice and the rule of law in her speech, saying “saludo ako sa tapang at determinasyon ninyo.”
The former justice secretary said she appreciated how her former colleagues from the Aquino Cabinet never left her side no matter the cost.
“To my former colleagues in the Cabinet, I am grateful that in your little ways, you continue to show to the public how important it is to have an ethical kind of leadership. I am also thankful na andiyan kayo, still fighting with me,” she said.
De Lima, who continues to file meaningful bills and resolutions even in detention, commended her lawyers and other staff members for not letting the challenges of working for the staunchest critic of the administration get in the way of their job.
“I commend my staff members, that in spite of my situation — it is not easy to work for a principal who is the object of vilification by the government– they still function properly. I owe them a lot,” she said.
“To my lawyers, I thank them for aiming to secure my freedom early despite it being really challenging because there justices and judges who refuse to see the merits of our causes,” she added.
De Lima did not forget to thank her supporters as well. “I know that is a struggle just to get a glimpse of me during my Court appearances knowing that the police do their best to block me from the public’s view. Malaking sakripisyo ang pagpunta niyo sa mga hearings ko. To that, I am thankful.”
Saying that she does not see an end to her oppression by the government anytime soon, De Lima said she decided that her life henceforth should be defined by two words: “defiance and resistance.”
“I will continue to defy my oppressors. I shall defy any lure of hopelessness. I will resist the breakdown of the rule of law. I shall defy the enemies of truth and democracy. I will resist the rise of a culture of impunity,” she said.
To mark her 2nd birthday in detention, De Lima will also launch her 2nd book which she dedicates to the Filipino people who believe in her innocence despite the trumped-up charges hurled against her tonight.
The book, entitled “Fight for Freedom and Other Writings,” contains a collection of writings, speeches, letters and notes about De Lima and her quest for freedom, which she and other prominent personalities supportive of her plight wrote.