A day before her first year of illegal arrest, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has asserted that her continued unjust detention strengthened her resolve instead of dampening her spirit.
In her message read by former Rep. Erin Tañada during the gathering dubbed as “Leila is Free! Free Leila!” for “Buwan Ni Leila,” De Lima said she found it ironic how the vile plans of President Duterte and his minions backfired.
“One year after having me illegally detained, they not only failed to suppress my spirit, they made it burn brighter and hotter,” she said.
“My calls, which once echoed in the halls of the Senate, are now heard all over the world – all because everyone here continued to support me in my time of personal need, and kept our collective campaign for human rights alive,” she added.
The gathering, which kicked off with the Novena Mass for De Lima’s intentions and followed by a poetry reading led by Karina Jimenez-David, was held at the Bulwagang Ka Pepe (Ka Pepe Hall) at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), in Quezon City today, Feb. 23.
The Novena Mass was co-celebrated by Fr. Atilano Fajardo and Fr. Jerome Secillano and was attended by her friends, family members, supporters, staff members and fellow human rights advocates.
During the gathering, several personalities also conveyed their solidarity to De Lima. Among them were Tañada, Senator Risa Hontiveros, and CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, said Duterte and his allies are “gravely mistaken” if they think that her incarceration will silence her and prevent her from fulfilling her public duties. “Sa darating pong Sabado, isang taon na po buhat nang maipakulong ako sa ilalim ng mapaniil na rehimeng Duterte. Isang taon ng paglimita sa aking kilos, sa aking tinig, at sa kakayahang tuparin ang aking tungkulin bilang Senador.
“Isang taon ng pagyurak sa aking pagkababae at pagkatao, gamit ang mga inimbentong kaso. Subalit sa kabila ng lahat ng ito, isang taon ito ng patuloy na paglaban, patuloy na pagtatrabaho at paglilingkod sa bayan,” she said. Despite the legal battle she is facing for obviously trumped-up illegal drug charges, she continues to fulfill her electoral mandate as a Senator having filed 41 bills and 58 resolutions in the Senate, as of this writing.
The Senator from Bicol maintained that contrary to what many may think, she is honored to be jailed and is prepared for the long-haul. “Malinaw po: Matagumpay man nila akong naipakulong, bigo naman silang tuluyang patahimikin ako. Sa ginawa nila sa akin, lalo lang nila akong ginawang mas pursigido, mas buo ang loob na panindigan ang aking mga prinsipyo, lalo na sa usapin ng hustisya, demokrasya at karapatang-pantao,” she said.
“Leila is Free! Free Leila!” coincided with the launch of De Lima’s first electronic book entitled “Dispatches from Crame I,” which contains a selection of more than 100 of the Senator’s handwritten statements from her detention. The topics include personal reflections and political views about extrajudicial killings and the war on drugs, governance and social justice, among others. De Lima personally designed the artwork on the cover of the book, which shows a bird called “pipit.” She said the inspiration behind her sketch is the Filipino folk song “Ang Pipit” by National Artist Levi Celerio, which speaks of a man’s cruelty to a defenseless bird.
De Lima remains detained inside the national police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City since Feb. 24, 2017 over bogus illegal drug trade charges based on fabricated testimonies by convicted felons.