Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has acknowledged the influence in her professional life of former Filipino Presidents Corazon “Cory” C. Aquino and President Benigno “Noynoy” S. Aquino III who continue to serve as her inspirations in public office.
De Lima, who served as justice secretary under Noynoy Aquino’s administration, said she is “most honored” to have worked with him and likewise hopes to emulate the example that has been set by Cory Aquino.
“God truly works in mysterious ways – that I ended up serving five of my most fulfilling years in public service under a President [Noynoy Aquino] I did not even know personally before my appointment as his Secretary of Justice,” she said in her message read at the awarding ceremony of the 2018 Liberal International’s “Prize for Freedom” last July 28.
“I find inspiration in the grace, strength, wisdom and courage [Cory] had displayed in the face of various adversities, including personal tragedies. She was, and always will be, the epitome of a world-renowned advocate of democracy, peace, and the empowerment of women,” she added.
De Lima is the second Filipino who received the prestigious “Prize for Freedom” Award from the Liberal International (LI) in recognition for her remarkable efforts in defense of freedom and human rights, after Cory Aquino in 1987.
The Senator from Bicol proudly said that the first woman president of the Philippines who served from 1986 to 1992 has left a legacy that all Filipinos are honored to continue and protect.
“She did not just fight and defeat a dictator, she was instrumental in the creation of a Constitution that was intended to ensure that one will never rise and wrest power away from the people ever again,” she said.
The late president Cory Aquino is the most prominent figure of the 1986 People Power Revolution as she led the country’s eventful transition from dictatorship to democracy by putting an end to the 21-year authoritarian rule of then President Ferdinand Marcos.
On Noynoy Aquino, De Lima said she is grateful for his faith in her even until now that she is facing trumped-up drug charges based on manufactured evidence.
“Our faith in the Rule of Law, in holding public officials accountable, in the importance of truth and selfless public service, and in defending human rights were so aligned that it didn’t matter that we’ve known each other for such a relatively short time,” she said.
De Lima likewise acknowledged the role that former President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo played in installing her in the human rights community.
“Everything that I have done since then – in championing Human Rights, fighting for the Rule of Law and defending against corruption, abuse and impunity – has its roots in that fateful appointment,” said De Lima, who was appointed by Arroyo as Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in 2008.
“You might not have expected to hear me acknowledge her, but it is true. At the time, I was called the ‘surprise choice’. And I was. No one was more surprised by it than me.,” she added.
Whatever she is doing right now especially as a sitting Senator of the Republic, De Lima said it is to honor her father, former Commission on Elections Commissioner Vicente de Lima, who always cautioned her to do only what is right and justifiable.
“Though he is decidedly part of a generation that has passed, I am determined to continue honoring him by doing nothing that would bring shame to him, to our family or to the public service that he himself was once a part of,” she said.
De Lima commemorated the 6th death anniversary of her father in a Mass attended by families, friends and associates last July 29. Her father died in July 30, 2012 from colon cancer.