Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed solidarity with fellow women who refuse to cower into submission and servility despite the relentless determination of the current macho-fascist regime to vilify and crush them.
In her message read by Prof. Socorro Reyes for Tanggol Bayi’s webinar on the occasion of the International Day for Women Human Rights Defenders last Nov. 29, De Lima said the persecution she is subjected to under the Duterte regime only challenges her in strengthening her resolve to fight against attacks and other abuses on women.
“We [women] are increasingly becoming targeted all over the world amid the global rise of strongmen who are setting back the slow and painful advancements in the struggle for women’s equality and dignity,” she said.
“I, myself, am part of this fight for fundamental freedoms and social justice, and for that, have been unjustly detained for 1,375 days now for speaking truth to power when I called for a Senate investigation into Duterte’s murderous war on drugs.”
“My persecution, however, is but a part of the greater ordeal of the Filipino people. And if my story can serve as a platform to tell the world of the continuing battle being waged by ordinary Filipinos against a regime of lies and butchery, then so be it,” she added.
To further stress how the current regime has attacked women who dared to stand, De Lima recalled a personal experience, where she was vilified, harassed and persecuted by no less than the President.
“Duterte himself attacked me with gutter and vile sexism turning a sham congressional inquiry into the illegal drug trading inside the New Bilibid Prison a free-for-all circus that saw mostly convicted felons spouting coached and false testimonies against me,” the Senator pointed out.
“It was really meant to silence and intimidate me, with my cell phone number even broadcasted in public. As such, I personally received thousands of hate messages assaulting my very person with malicious insults and grave threats,” she recalled.
Despite this, De Lima maintained that her experience gave her greater determination to stand up against perpetrators of misogynistic attacks, gender-based violence, discrimination, defamation and lawfare against the courageous women who work tirelessly for gender equality, human rights and democracy.
“We persist in calling out injustices in defense of the abused, oppressed, and marginalized. We also persist in supporting each other with vigilance so that we can continue demanding for accountability and uphold human rights without fear of reprisal or danger to our lives,”she said.
“Patuloy na inaatake ang ating pagiging babae dahil akala nila ito ang ating kahinaan. Napakalaking pagkakamali. Ang tiyak din natin, ginagamit ni Duterte na pang-atake ang kanyang pagiging macho pasista dahil akala niya, ito ang kanyang kalakasan,” De Lima stressed.
In an earlier webinar organized by Tanggol Bayi and Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau, on the occasion of the International Day to End Violence Against Women last Nov. 25, Bituin Escalante read the Senator’s heartwarming letter addressed to political prisoner Reina Nasino who lost her child, Baby River, after being taken away from her.
In the letter, De Lima said oppressors of women like her and Nasino may try to make them suffer, but they “can never defeat or strip” them of their dignity.
In the current 18th Congress, De Lima who has been named by Amnesty International as one of the notable global women human rights defenders under threat, has filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 378 protecting women in state custody and SB No. 622 increasing the age of consent to 18 to protect minors against rape and other forms of sexual exploitation.
She also filed SB No. 1148 increasing the hiring of female police officers in the Philippine National Police and SB No. 1926 seeking to set up appropriate facilities in detention centers and prisons and introduce prison reforms in the treatment of women detainees, especially mothers and their children. (30)