Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the international community to continue without relent the fight against all forms of discrimination and persecution, especially those directed against women who stood up for human rights and rule of law.
In a message read by Vicky Gachitorena, former vice president for women of the Liberal Party, at the recent regional women’s caucus conference, De Lima said gender should not be seen as hindrance to speak out and stand for what is right and just.
“It is becoming increasingly more apparent these days that people don’t take women seriously, they just manifest it in different ways. The way I was attacked for my acts as a public servant made that plainly and painfully clear,” she said.
“Just as I refuse to be a cowed victim of political persecution, so, too, do I refuse to be a victim of my gender in a world that has yet to fully respect the equality of men and women.[We should] continue fighting against all forms of discrimination and persecution, especially against those who paint human rights and the rule of law as the problem,” she added.
De Lima’s full speech entitled “An Oath for Human Rights and Rule of Law: The Fight of our Lifetime,” was delivered to the delegates of CALD (Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats) Women’s Caucus Conference and Workshop on “Women Empowering Women: Experiences Across Asia” held in Taipei Taiwan last Aug. 11.
De Lima, a staunch advocate for women’s rights and human dignity, has been subject to sexist and misogynistic attacks by President Duterte and his allies since she initiated a Senate investigation into the spate of extrajudicial killings and summary executions under the government’s all-out war on drugs last year.
The rift between Duterte and De Lima, however, can be traced back as early as 2009 when the Senator, who then chaired the Commission on Human Rights, probed the former Davao mayor on his alleged involvement in the summary killings attributed to the dreaded Davao Death Squad.
Noting that the barrage of misogynistic and slut-shaming attacks launched against her was Duterte’s way of silencing her, De Lima vowed not to let the administration stop her from discharging her mandate as a lawmaker by filing resolutions and bills in the Senate.
As she continues to defy her persecutors by adhering to her commitments to stand for equality and truth, the former justice secretary asked the local and international communities to be one with her in her fight against the abuses of the administration.
“I perform my duty simply by not being cowered. The word ‘simply’ is, of course, misleading. Nothing is simple when one is facing the might of the whole government machinery – from an all-powerful President, to other government institutions that have virtually abdicated their power to keep abusive and arbitrary uses of power in check,” she said.
“Everything is a battle. Even getting permission to allow pens for my use to be brought into the detention facility was once something we had to fight for. But fight I must. Fight we must. We might not have the power of might on our side. But we have power of right,” she added.
De Lima is considered as the first prominent political prisoner under the present Duterte regime after the government detained her on obviously fabricated drug charges to silence her from her vocal opposition to the President’s controversial war on drugs.
Despite the vicious gender-based attacks against her by the President and his lackeys, De Lima, who was recognized by Amnesty International as one of the notable Women Human Rights Defenders, vowed to continue fighting against injustices while in detention.