Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed deep gratitude to Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates “Soc” Villegas for what she called a “very inspiring and powerful” letter given her on her first year of illegal arrest and unjust detention last Feb. 24.
De Lima, who has been acknowledged as a prisoner of conscience and the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, said Bishop Villegas’ words remind her that she is not alone in her quest for truth and justice.
“The power of Filipinos– like Archbishop Soc Villegas–who are not cowed to side with the truth and reject the lies peddled by the President and his henchmen, is indeed, stronger and more powerful than the might and hatred of a vicious tyrant,” she said.
“I thank the good Archbishop for his continued faith in me. I was deeply moved by his words and was inspired by his courage and determination to stand up for his countrymen,” she added.
In a letter personally handed to De Lima by Villegas last Feb. 24, the Prelate described the Senator’s unjust detention as “the biggest symbol of what is wrong with our country.”
But despite the “moral decay” hounding the country, Villegas noted that De Lima’s courage and faith are also the “best symbol of hope for what we can do to heal this land.”
“You are not a saint and so am I. You are not perfect and so are we all. But in your human imperfections, God has placed you here behind bars, cut off from the rest of us your fellow dreamers, so that you can offer the pains of your sacrifice for the healing of our land. Do not give up lifting up to the Lord the anguish of your immoral detention. You are blessing many Filipinos by this sacrifice,” Villegas wrote.
Villegas also shared with De Lima a “credo” which the Prelate hopes could resound beyond the walls of her detention quarters and would lead to the healing of our country against the hatred, lies, extrajudicial killings and other ills plaguing the Filipino people.
“I will defend the Philippines against Filipinos who oppress their own and against foreigners who threaten our independence; not by violence nor harassment, not by turning a blind eye for the sake of friendship; but through the help of God who listens to the cry of His people who suffer. I will always pursue respectful dialogue with truth in love,” he said.
The former justice secretary assured Villegas that she will continue to fight for the welfare of their countrymen despite the unprecedented magnitude of harassments against her by the Duterte regime.
“Sa panahong ito na matindi ang pagsubok na kinakaharap ng ating mga kababayan sa kamay ni Duterte, isa kayo sa pinagkukunan ko ng dagdag na lakas at tatag ng loob. Tiwala ako na sa inyong pakikiisa sa aking laban kontra sa karahasan at kasinungalingan, mananaig pa din ang katotohanan at katarungan sa bandang huli,” she said.
Villegas was the main celebrant of the Holy Mass that marked De Lima’s first year of unjust detention insider her detention cell in the PNP headquarters last Feb. 24
Among those who also attended the Mass and expressed their solidarity with De Lima were former President Benigno S. Aquino III, Senators Kiko Pangilinan, Sonny Trillanes, Frank Drilon and Bam Aquino, Congressmen Tom Villarin and Teddy Baguilat, former interior Secretary Mar Roxas, former human rights chair Etta Rosales, former social welfare secretary Dinky Soliman, former peace adviser Ging Deles and former presidential management staff chief Julia Abad.