Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has thanked women’s rights group #EveryWoman for pushing for her immediate and unconditional release by gathering people from different walks of life in a recent lecture series, the “Leila de Lima Lecture Series”, that tackled her political persecution under the present regime on her birthday last Aug. 27.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the present administration, also expressed gratitude for #EveryWoman and other women leaders from various sectors and organizations who collectively signed a “Free Leila” statement as read during the same event at Club Filipino, Greenhills, San Juan.
“Thank you, #EveryWoman, for organizing this lecture series. Sa panahon na sistematikong pinapababaw ang pag-unawa natin sa mga nangyayari sa ating paligid, napakahalaga ng patuloy na pag-aaral sa mga isyu ng lipunan,” De Lima said in a message read by her youngest brother Vicente de Lima II.
“To all the women leaders from various sectors, organizations, and religious affiliations who signed the “Free Leila” statement, salamat sa patuloy na paninindigan,” she added.
The lecture series was notable for having prominent economist and columnist Prof. Solita Collas-Monsod as the inaugural speaker where she expressed outrage over De Lima’s predicament, mindful how Mr. Duterte marshalled all his weaponry against the former justice secretary.
“To Prof. Winnie for graciously accepting the invitation to be the inaugural speaker of this lecture series, thank you very much. Maraming salamat din sa mga artikulong sinusulat ninyo tungkol sa akin at sa aking kaso,” De Lima said.
The “Free Leila” statement, meanwhile, called for the release of De Lima on four grounds, including points that the charges against the Senator are based on flimsy evidence and that she has been detained without conviction, among others.
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, said that being reminded of the support she has from the women who fought a dictatorship and are now in the frontline against the rise of another amid her ordeal has given her tremendous honor and pride.
“It is just unfortunate that while some of us may have thought that we have seen the worst during the dark days of the Martial Law era, we are now confronted again by the same horrors that pushed many young people then, out of their comfortable lives and into the streets to fight alongside the poor and marginalized,” she said.
“While we take pride in our many gains in the economic and political areas of our national life since Edsa in 1986, we are still very far from our dream of socio-economic inclusion and equality for everyone,” she added.
Amid the continued threats to Philippine democracy and human rights in the country, De Lima noted that the collective determination as a people will be the nation’s strongest weapon against the Duterte regime which is spawned by misogyny and bloodlust.
“We fight. And we fight more. We fight ever resolutely, ever relentlessly,” said De Lima, who pointed out that she is indeed “60 and fighting.”
Before the lecture series concluded, the crowd of around 200 individuals collectively reiterated their call for De Lima’s release by chanting, “We demand! Free Leila de Lima Now!” repeatedly and wrote their messages of support in a freedom wall placed in the venue with the hashtag #FreeLeilaNow.
Among the notable personalities present in the event were former Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, former peace adviser Teresita “Ging” Deles, and former chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights Etta Rosales.
A day before the lecture series, the “Committee for the Freedom of Leila de Lima”, which is a non-partisan group of independent-minded individuals who have come together to support strategic efforts to free the Senator from unjust detention, was launched at the historic Club Filipino in San Juan City.