Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima today thanked Liberal International (LI) for recognizing her unwavering stance on human rights by conferring her this year’s prestigious “Prize for Freedom” Award last July 28.
De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, said her heart is “filled with joy and gratitude” for the continued support she receives from the international delegates.
“I humbly thank the LI, particularly my fellow liberals who personally attended the awarding ceremony last Saturday, July 28, for going the extra mile to recognize my efforts in defending justice and human rights and for keeping their faith in me amid this ordeal,” she said in a handwritten statement sent from her detention.
“Though I failed to personally attend the awarding ceremony due to my current situation, knowing LI is on my side eases my tribulations and deepens my resolve to keep on fighting for my causes,” she said.
In a simple awarding ceremony held at Novotel Manila, Araneta Center, Quezon City last July 28, the LI delegates led by its President Dr. Juli Minoves formally conferred De Lima with the “highest human rights honor.”
Among the LI delegates present were LI Deputy President Dr. Hakima el Haite, former Hong Kong Legislative Council Emily Lau, and Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) Secretary General Kiat Sittheeamorn.
Israel, de Lima’s eldest son, accepted the trophy on behalf of Sen. De Lima, along with the Senator’s brother Vicente “Vicboy” de Lima II and nephew Marcel de Lima, and her sister Caroline de Lima and her aunt, Lilia de Lima.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, also thanked LI for raising the alarm over her continued illegal detention and for calling on Mr. Duterte to immediately free her.
“Despite the persistent attacks and obvious lies thrown against me by the Duterte administration, I am grateful for their firm belief of my innocence. Truly, I am not alone in this fight,” she said.
“Their presence is a testament that indeed, the world is watching closely what is happening not just to me, but in our country under a selfish and vengeful leader sitting in Malacañang,” she added.
In a press conference held hours before the awarding ceremony, Sittheeamorn only uttered good words for De Lima, saying he and his colleagues “have been following the works of Senator De Lima in the previous years.”
“She is one strong fighter for human rights and democratic values,” Sittheeamorn said.
“Senator De Lima’s struggle, her sacrifice, is not solely a Filipino matter, nor is it even an Asian matter. Leila’s cause transcends petty political rivalries and regional nuances; she personifies humanity’s shared aspiration for universal human rights,” Dr. Minoves added.
LI regarded De Lima as a “flag-bearer for human rights in the Philippines and beyond, setting a shining example for other human rights defenders.”
According to the London-based world federation of liberal and progressive democratic parties, De Lima was conferred the “Prize for Freedom” award for her “exceptional contribution to the advancement of human rights” in the Philippines.”
De Lima is the second Filipino who accepted the Human Rights Prize, after then President Corazon Aquino in 1987, who was recognized “for her world-renowned advocacy of democracy, peace, and the empowerment of women.”
Prior to this award, De Lima was also recognized by 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, among others.