De Lima second Filipino to receive ‘Prize for Freedom’ award

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima will be the second Filipino to receive the prestigious “Prize for Freedom” Award from the Liberal International (LI) in recognition for her remarkable efforts in defense of freedom and human rights.

De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, is set to be formally conferred with the “highest human rights honor” in a simple ceremony that would be held at Novotel Manila, Araneta Center, Quezon City on July 28.

“A vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called ‘war on drugs’ and a prisoner of conscience. [Sen.] de Lima was one of the first to be targeted by the hard-line Duterte government for her outspoken criticism of the president’s targeted campaign of violence, which has left thousands of mostly poor Filipinos dead,” LI said in a release.

“Imprisoned since February 2017, this month Liberal International will recognise her sacrifice with our highest human rights award, the Prize for Freedom,” it added.

The first Filipino who received the award was then President Corazon Aquino in 1987, who was recognized “for her world-renowned advocacy of democracy, peace, and the empowerment of women.”

De Lima is regarded by LI as a “flag-bearer for human rights in the Philippines and beyond, setting a shining example for other human rights defenders.”

She joins LI’s long roster of awardees to include former Argentinian President Raul Alfonsin (1985), former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (1989), Nobel Peace Prize laureate and now State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi (1995), Saudi activist Raif Badawi (2016), and prominent Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti (2017), among others.

Like De Lima, some of the awardees of the ‘Prize for Freedom’ Award were also accorded the same recognition while detained or politically persecuted by their respective governments.

LI, a London-based world federation of liberal and progressive democratic parties, noted the award is given to “a well-known personality of liberal conviction who has made outstanding efforts for the defence of freedom and human rights.”

The third international organization that sent representatives to visit De Lima in detention, LI has previously denounced the arrest of De Lima as politically motivated. Its members also urged the Duterte administration to immediately release De Lima from unjust detention and allow her to fulfill her mandate as a Senator.

LI has earlier announced it is conferring the “Prize for Freedom” Award to De Lima during its 199th Executive Committee meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, which was attended by 100 liberals from 32 countries, in October 2017.

Despite her continued unjust detention, De Lima continues to reap awards and citations here and abroad, including the Foreign Policy magazine as one of the leading Global Thinkers for 2016 and 2017; by Time Magazine as one of 100 Most Influential People, one of the Icons, for 2017; by Fortune Magazine as 39th World’s Greatest Leader; and by Amnesty International as the Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender for 2018, to name some.

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