A year after she was unjustly detained, a smiling and light-hearted Senator Leila M. de Lima was surrounded by friends and supporters, including past and present colleagues in government.
“Pasensya na po, siksikan tayo,” De Lima told her guests who attended the Mass celebrated inside the custodial center of the national police’s headquarters.
Among them are members of the Senate minority, opposition congressmen, former President Benigno S. Aquino III and former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
De Lima elicited more laughter when she told Roxas: “Sec. Mar, your healthy lifestyle is evident and I heard you got yourself a new, stunning girlfriend.” She was referring to Roxas’ wife whose beauty endorsements made the papers recently.
Turning serious, De Lima asked: “What is it like?” After 365 days in detention, she had more time to ponder on this question and realized it is “a dichotomy of sentiments.”
“It is both too short and too long. It is both a curse and a blessing. It has both made me weaker and stronger,” she said.
“Parang kailan lang,” she muses, but apparently her first year in unjust detention is “like a coiled rope that once you untangle, hindi pala ganun kaikli.”
“It’s been too long. It’s been like an eternity, trapped in another world,” she continued, explaining that for someone innocent, to be held even just for one day is unbearable.
De Lima said that she has been forced to rely on other people for the simplest things–food, clothes and medicines. She said that she can’t be too choosy but is grateful that her visitors bring her good food, citing Roxas’ alimango and sugpo.
“In the last 365 days, I ate steak once,” a beaming De Lima said, who has become noticeably slimmer.
Saying she misses watching movies and listening to music, De Lima turned to Aquino and said: “But I guarantee you, I’m so out of tune now.” She explained that the former President was fond of making her sing in social gatherings when she was part of his Cabinet.
But De Lima said her detention has also been a blessing. She said she has more time now for self-reflection. “I am now closer to God,” she said.
She shared that she has adopted new habits such as gardening since Senator Francis Pangilinan, who was also present, gifted her with potted herbs and plants.
“I read more books than I ever had. Truly, I am blessed,” De Lima said.
She said has also been feeding stray cats “and yes, talking to them, because there’s no one else around to talk to,” eliciting another laughter from her guests.
De Lima shared how her visitors would tell her she looks good. She joked: “At least my jailers have not stripped me of my human right to look good.”
“But I’m not really fit,” she said, citing physical ailments that were not there before or have worsened, such as high levels of sugar and blood pressure.
She likewise revealed that with no air-conditioning unit in her room, she worries about her vertigo attacks that can be triggered by the summer heat.
But more than her physical concerns, she said that her “psychological and emotional well-being have taken quite a beating.”
“Because how does one bear such an intense character assassination, the slut-shaming and all the lies?”
De Lima said she has had to overcome the betrayal of people she trusted and treated well, and to “not let the trauma isolate me from those who still love and support me.”
But for the detained Senator, “most painful is not knowing when I’m going to see my mother, not knowing if I would still be around to see my children and grandchildren witness my vindication.”
As for her detractors, De Lima had little words for them: “I have to give credit where credit is due–my prosecutors have made me stronger.”
De Lima said she is thankful for the new friends and allies that she has gotten to know better and has made her stronger while inside detention.