Senator Leila M. de Lima yesterday marked her first year in detention in Camp Crame with a Mass celebrated by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who said earlier in an open letter for the Senator that her detention “is the biggest symbol of what is wrong with our country.”
Villegas explained that a Mass is also called the Eucharist, which means thanksgiving, but he told De Lima that “we are not thanking the Lord that you have been here for one year”, and neither the fact that “the number of extrajudicial killings can now fill the whole of Araneta Coliseum.”
The Archbishop also cited worsened crime and corruption, the spread of lies and fake news, and the erosion of people’s moral fiber.
But Villegas said that we can still be thankful that God is here and he is more powerful than any of the evils that can be committed.
“There has not been a moment that God is not with you,” he said to De Lima. “We can still thank the Lord that a greater number of Filipinos are still good. Goodness cannot die in the Philippines,” he added.
Speaking to De Lima, Villegas said: “When we remember you, we remember courage, we remember love of country.”
In thanking De Lima for inspiring the people and giving them hope, Villegas assured the detained Senator that “our destiny is not to suffer eternally.”
“God has never abandoned you. God has never forgotten you,” he told her. “We might leave you here tonight, but you are not alone.”
In closing his homily, the former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines reminded guests present in the Mass to look forward to the day that De Lima will be freed from her unjust incarceration.
“We will be able to celebrate another Mass no longer in this place and celebrate the freedom that God has given you,” he said.
De Lima thanked Villegas for his “very moving” and “powerful” homily, and also for his open letter to her.
In reference to said letter, De Lima told her guests, “I’m sure that I, like all of you in this room, would never get tired of loving this country.”
Among those present were former President Benigno S. Aquino III, Senators Kiko Pangilinan, Sonny Trillanes, Frank Drilon and Bam Aquino, Congressmen Tom Villarin and Teddy Baguilat, former interior Secretary Mar Roxas, former human rights chair Etta Rosales, former social welfare secretary Dinky Soliman, former peace adviser Ging Deles and former presidential management staff chief Julia Abad.
The visitors were inspired, and some were even moved to tears, with Villegas’ homily and De Lima’s sharing afterwards.
The Senator told her guests how it is for her, as someone innocent, to be unjustly detained for a year now.
“365 days have been both too short and too long. It is both a curse and a blessing. It has both made me weaker and stronger,” she said.
After the Mass, De Lima and her visitors had lunch together in the small receiving area for visitors which made for intimate discussions and hearty laughs over good food.
Before going home, the guests received a copy of De Lima’s newly-released book titled “Dispatches from Crame I”, which is a selection of the handwritten statements she has issued from detention.
De Lima, who was all smiles throughout, happily obliged those who asked her to sign their limited copies.