“Keep the faith. Uphold the truth.” Sen. Leila M. de Lima shared this message on her sixth day of being detained on “trumped-up charges” of alleged illegal drug trading.
Fr. Robert Reyes celebrated a mass on Ash Wednesday inside the custodial center of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Camp Crame where De Lima is held. “I know Leila is innocent from Day 1,” he said.
In his homily, Fr. Reyes said “the country enters Lent in a most unusual way,” in an apparent reference to the political persecution De Lima faces for standing up against President Duterte and the extrajudicial killings under his administration.
“Until Leila walks out of here, we are also not free,” Fr. Reyes said. “We may not be detained in the same way as her, but isn’t it that we are also imprisoned for as long as there is this kind of injustice?”
Popularly known as the “Running Priest” for his activist streak and running for causes, Reyes was himself held in the same detention facility for 16 days after being dragged into the failed 2003 Oakwood mutiny. “This [detention] will change you… This is a favorable time for contemplation,” De Lima’s spiritual adviser said.
The embattled Senator agreed, saying that she embraces the persecution knowing fully well that God knows she is innocent and that she will one day be vindicated. “But how soon or how late, that I don’t know,” she said.
De Lima reiterated her concerns about her security. “Each day I am here my life is at risk,” she said. Even with President Duterte’s assurance that she is “100 percent safe” inside Camp Crame, De Lima still does not feel secure. “I can never trust him because he is a murderer and he is capable of having me killed,” she explained.
She added that “anything can happen to me while in detention. While I have no complaints about my custodians – they are very professional and courteous-I feel completely defenseless here. Each day I am detained is a day of injustice. What is being done to me is extraordinary,” De Lima said, expressing alarm over the continuing “atmosphere of killings”.
The Senator hopes to be freed at the soonest to be able to actively participate in the Senate inquiries on high profile cases, such as Davao Death Squad, Jack Lam/Bureau of Immigration bribery scandal and Tokhang for ransom issues.