Dispatch from Crame No. 318: Sen. Leila M. de Lima on the denial of a Mother’s plea to be with her son in this special day, his graduation


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In the 465 days that I have been detained thus far, di ko na mabilang ang mga pagkakataon na dinapuan ako ng lungkot. May mga panahon rin, lalo na noong unang mga buwan, na gabi-gabi ako napapaluha. There were countless nights that I cried myself to sleep, praying to God for the strength to endure.

But, then, a new day comes and, in the bright light of the morning sun, my hope is renewed and I go about my day as usual: reading, working, writing, conversing with my visitors, feeding the stray cats, and, always, always, praying.

And never, not a single time, did I find myself regretting the choices I’ve made that brought me here. I knew I did the right thing in not being intimidated by this regime into silence.

But today, today is one of the saddest days of my most unjust detention.

Today is the graduation of my son, Vincent Joshua, from law school. My son, whom I love and am very proud of. This is that day that we, as a family, and I as a parent, have been looking forward to for years now. And never did I imagine I wouldn’t be able to be there with him, bearing witness to his triumph, and being what all mothers by definition are meant to be: the number one cheerleader and supporter of their child, as they achieve one of their lifelong dreams.

To Vincent, I want to tell you, my son, that I am so happy and so proud of you.

You have hurdled your law studies under challenging circumstances – as a family man, as a father to two very young children, the elder of whom has autism, as a very patient and loving younger brother to a special brother, and, not to mention, the silently suffering son to a controversial mother, who is now a victim of persecution.

These are no ordinary circumstances. Law school, by itself, is no cakewalk. Lesser persons would have given up on their dreams, and taken the easier way out. But not you. You are made of sterner stuff. I am both humbled and proud of the man you have become.

You and your kuya make me a stronger person.

I’ve missed a lot in the last 15 months. But this is the closest I have ever come to owning up to regret. Because this is not about me, but about my child. It is a very tangible loss to both of us. One that can’t be brought back, even when the time comes that I am vindicated and freed. This day will pass, and we will never have it back.

In my 465 days here, I have done my best not to ask for special favors. Even for this, all I asked was to be accorded the same humanitarian consideration that was shown to other high-profile detainees, who were allowed to attend their children’s graduation, their father’s birthday celebration, etc.

The unjustness and double standard is just too much to bear. And the reason given, that I am a flight risk, is so blatantly false that they might as well not have bothered to try to justify it at all. Ako na siguro ang pinakamalayo sa flight risk sa mga bilanggo dito.

Ilang linggo bago ako nila kinasuhan at inaresto, umalis ako ng bansa. At kahit alam kong itutuloy nila ang maitim nilang balak na ipakulong ako, bumalik pa rin ako. Kusa at mapayapa akong sumuko nang ako ay ipaaresto. Yan ba ang “flight risk”?

If there is anything at risk of flying away, it is my faith in the goodness of those in power. They who have the authority have forgotten their obligation to use it for good, for justice; and have become enamored with the power they have to play with people’s lives.

Pinaglalaruan nila ang buhay ko at ng pamilya ko.

I guess I just have to accept the fact that this regime cannot be benevolent towards me, to put it very mildly.

As I write this, I am almost ashamed to say that I am crying. Ashamed that my tears would be seen by my oppressors as some sign of weakness. That I would be bringing some pleasure to them knowing how much they have hurt me and my family. Pero tao lang ako. At kahit gaano katibay ang pagkatao ko, may hangganan din ang kakayanan kong pigilin ang damdamin at luha ko.

I cry as much for myself, as a mother who missed her son’s graduation, as I do for everyone who have known the pain of not being with their families on a daily basis and even on very special, once-in-a-lifetime occasions. I feel your pain and my heart aches just as yours do.

I also cry for those who have known what it means that “no good deed goes unpunished.” Truly, we have to endure the “punishment” of doing the right thing. But we must never forget that we also enjoy the best reward for it: a clear and guilt-free conscience. I might cry tonight, but I will slumber at peace with my God and my conscience.

I wonder if those who are so petty and heartless as to deny a mother this small chance at being with her son can say the same thing. ###

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