Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima today (Feb. 24) marks her third year of illegal arrest and unjust detention – a grim reminder that the Duterte regime is intolerable of dissent and perceives political opposition as a threat to his administration.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under Duterte administration, maintained that her continued detention is caused, not because she is guilty of the drug-related offenses filed against her, but vengeance of a power-hungry President.
“Let me say it again: I am INNOCENT of the trumped-up drug charges against me. I may not be a perfect person, but I have never betrayed my duty as a public servant,” she said.
“And if anyone would take a serious look at the details of my cases, including the ludicrous perjured testimonies of the so-called witnesses against me – they will see that I am merely a victim of political persecution,” she added.
De Lima’s statement was read by her brother Vicente de Lima II before the more than 1,100 delegates of the recent “International Forum on Lawfare: Weaponizing the Law against Democratic Dissent” held at De La Salle University, Manila last Feb. 21.
Despite her three years in detention, De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, vowed to continue shepherding measures needed to uplift the quality of life of Filipinos, especially the poor.
Even under harsh living and working conditions, the lady Senator from Bicol has faithfully and diligently pursued her legislative mandate despite not having access to much needed work-related tools and gadgets.
To date, she has authored and co-authored 68 bills and 31 resolutions in the 18th Congress. In the 17th Congress, she principally authored bills that were signed into law, such as the Magna Carta of the Poor and the institutionalization of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
“The country saw that despite the persecution that I have been subjected to in the past three years, my spirit remains unbroken and our legislative accomplishments remain unhindered,” the lawmaker pointed out.
“Duterte and his merry band of trolls may continue their vile narrative towards me, but the country and the world are seeing through the smoke and mirrors regarding my situation,” she added.
In the past year, De Lima has continued to obtain international support, foremost of which was the adoption of a bipartisan resolution by the United States Senate seeking sanctions against officials involved in orchestrating her arrest and prolonged detention.
The US Senate Resolution 142 also called for the invocation of the Global Magnitsky Act against State actors who are also involved on the extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.
In December last year, US President Donald Trump also signed into law the US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill which includes a provision urging the US State Department to ban Philippine government officials responsible for De Lima’s wrongful imprisonment from entering US territories.
However, the multiple cases filed against De Lima are progressing at a snail’s pace. As of this writing, six Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court judges have either recused themselves from hearing her drug cases or have opted for early retirement.
Last January, the Supreme Court dismissed her petition for the writ of habeas data against Mr. Duterte whom it deemed immune from suit. De Lima’s legal camp has filed a motion for reconsideration.
Despite her continued persecution, De Lima has refused to waver in her conviction. In a Keynote Address at an international forum last Feb. 21, De Lima has declared herself as “free”.
“Today, I declare myself free. For though I may be physically detained, my mind is freer than it has ever been; my dignity is intact; and my will to fight to protect the freedom and interests of the Filipino people is stronger than ever,” she said.
“Thus, I am not a victim. I am not merely a survivor. I am not just a fighter. I am a defender,” she added. (30)