Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has asserted that US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ victory at the 2020 election is a historical triumph not just for women but for all those who have been deprived of opportunities because of gender and racial discrimination.
De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, expressed her admiration for Harris’ resolve in fighting for justice and courage in standing up against oppressors in a congratulatory letter she sent to the latter recently.
“As your fellow recipient of the ‘Leading Global Thinkers for 2017’ award, we both know how it is to be a woman at the forefront of the struggle for equality and justice, consistently being analyzed by our sex and not by our qualifications,” she said.
“In a male-dominated world, we are considered as incongruities in our chosen arenas as women lawyers and politicians. Whenever we try carve our own path and speak up, we are called nasty, radical, disrespectful, monsters, or in my case, a drug queen,” she added.
Harris makes history as the first woman, the first Black person and the first person of South Asian descent to be elected vice president.
In her letter, De Lima shared the situation in the Philippines, particularly how the Rule of Law is being held in mockery by Mr. Duterte who continues to weaponize the law to stifle legitimate dissent in the country.
De Lima further shared that Filipino women are being hit hard here – mothers and wives orphaned by the drug war, women rights defenders, women public officials, citing her case as the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime as an example.
“My persecution is not an isolated case. The list gets longer but so does the number of women who are coming out to raise their voices and fight,” said De Lima, who has been unjustly detained for almost four years now for bogus accusation of conspiring to commit illegal drug trading.
“Amidst all these, the first to come to my defense are sisters in the struggle. And with our collective strength, we continue to fight for justice and to reclaim the freedom and equality that has been taken away from us,” she added.
As populist authoritarians are waging a war against women, De Lima said the best way to defeat these regimes is having someone like Harris to lead and bear political power.
“When you said to your opponent during the vice-presidential debates ‘Mr. Vice President, I am speaking,’ after being cut-off several times by him, at that moment, you were every woman who has been belittled, talked over, silenced, ridiculed, and jailed, but who still chose to regain her voice to fight for herself and the many who are oppressed,” she said.
“You spoke to me, and to thousands of women who are still suffering in silence and submission. As it is said beautifully in Filipino, ang maging babae sa panahon natin, ay maging babaeng nakikipagdigma para sa Kalayaan (To be a woman in our time, is to be a woman fighting a war for freedom),” she added.
In an earlier statement, through her Dispatch from Crame No. 961, De Lima said the election of former Vice President Joseph “Joe” Biden and Harris as President and Vice President, respectively, to record-level voter turnout in the United States of America “is a testament to their country’s resolve in participating in, and protecting, their democracy.” (30)