With the deteriorating human rights situation across the nation, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has reiterated the greater challenge for the public, especially the youth, to stand by human rights and defend it at all costs.
In her recent message read before the gathering of foreign and local youth groups, De Lima said young people of different nationalities coming together to register their voices and make a difference is a step in a right direction.
“This grim human rights situation is not exclusive to the Philippines as we witness the rise of populist leaders, the resurgence of xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiments in developed countries and the worsening inequality across nations and people,” she said.
The gathering, organized by the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) and Akbayan Youth, was attended by young advocates of human rights from different countries, last May 12.
The Senator from Bicol said the youth has her full support both in dreaming and working for a just and human society that respects, protects and fulfill the dignity and rights of every person without discrimination.
“I have always been inspired by youth groups putting their idealism and boundless energy to good use by combatting racism, sexism, killings and other forms of human rights violations whenever and wherever they encounter such transgressions,” she said.
De Lima shared that the Duterte administration’s effort to keep her in a protracted pre-trial and illegal detention on politically-motivated drug charges only strengthened her resolve to fight for human rights instead of dampening her spirit.
“Human rights is the real bone of contention between me and the President,” shared De Lima, who earned the ire of Duterte after leading a Senate inquiry into the summary killings related to administration’s war on drugs in July 2016.
As then chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in 2009, De Lima also investigated the rampant extrajudicial killings of crime suspects including youth offenders in Davao City under the watch of then mayor Duterte. De Lima, who was recognized by Amnesty International as one of the notable Women Human Rights Defenders Under Threat, also urged the youth to stand up against any attempts by leaders like Duterte to publicly malign and threaten individuals and institutions who are vocal champions of human rights.
In the Philippines, De Lima said, “they are doing this because they know that human rights is the formidable roadblock to this regime’s agenda to monopolize and hold on to power beyond the limits set by the 1987 Constitution.”
She added, “we also witnessed how the rule of law and due process were bastardized to persecute political opponents and wrest control of independent institutions like what is happening now to Chief Justice Sereno of the Supreme Court.”
Considered as the staunchest critic of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, De Lima was arrested in February 2017 based on trumped-up charges that have no basis but the perjured testimonies of convicted felons.