Women’s rights advocate Dr. Socorro Reyes has openly expressed her admiration for Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima’s resilience and unbroken spirit amid her continued political persecution, especially now that the latter is in an almost solitary confinement because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During her lecture in an online forum aptly titled “Courage and Conviction: Women in the Time of Patriarchy and the Pandemic,” last March 25, Reyes said De Lima is one of the victims of the patriarchal authoritarian leadership of Mr. Duterte.
“Senator Leila de Lima is really the victim of a patriarchal authoritarian leadership that cannot tolerate dissent, that cannot accept criticism and who also will not admit that this government is a failed government in terms of addressing our immediate issues particularly now that the pandemic is getting more serious,” Reyes said.
“We know that Senator Leila de Lima has been imprisoned for more than four years all on trumped-up cases pero kahit na she’s been imprisoned for the last four years, it has never really ever broken her spirit. As a staunch advocate of human rights and social justice, she remains one of the foremost critics of the Duterte administration,” she added.
Organized by the Center for Liberalism and Democracy in cooperation with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) Philippines: It’s All About Freedom, Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), Liberal Party of the Philippines, and the Committee for the Freedom of Leila M. de Lima, the forum tackled the role of women during the pandemic and under a patriarchal regime.
Reyes, who discussed about patriarchy and how a tyrannical regime makes use of violence and misogyny to stay in and consolidate power, also discussed the plight of De Lima, the most prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime.
Reyes said Duterte finds women like De Lima as an existential threat to his patriarchy and authoritarianism, adding that he utilizes every opportunity to lambast women like De Lima because they threatens his leadership and oppose the abuses that the nation continues to suffer under him.
“You have a pandemic within a pandemic. You have the case of worsening patriarchy and misogyny in the time of COVID-19 under the authoritarian presidency of Duterte,” Reyes said.
Since her unjust detention where she has since been subject to sexist and misogynistic attacks and up until now that the country is facing a deadly virus, Reyes said De Lima continues to speak out against the government’s wrongdoings and failed pandemic strategy while fulfilling her duties as a Senator of the Republic.
“So we say, adversity really becomes her and kahit ngayon, halos naka-solitary confinement siya because of the pandemic dahil limited people can visit her, she manages to still goes on with her work. In fact, she’s more productive than those who are not in detention,” she said.
“If you look at her, yung mga cutting edge legislation na napasa niya, there’s the Magna Carta of the Poor, there’s the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, there’s the Community Based Monitoring System and there’s also the National Commission for Senior Citizens. She’s been very productive,” she added.
As such, Reyes urged her fellow women to continue expressing their solidarity with De Lima: “Let us support Senator De Lima, let us work for her freedom and let’s be one with her in her struggle for justice, for truth and for democracy.”
Aside from Reyes, other notable speakers in the online forum who shared their personal and political experiences as women leaders include former Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Dinky Soliman, Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking (CYAN) Director Rafaela David and Liberal Youth Program Director Jobelle Domingo. Chairperson of the CALD Women’s Caucus Jayanthi Balaguru also sent a recorded message highlighting her plea for the freedom of the Senator.
“If natatakot tayo, let us find courage from those people who speak up. Wake up every morning and find courage from them. Register and vote out the patriarchy,” Domingo said.
Soliman, for her part, stressed the role of fathers in making their daughters understand the power of speaking out: “That is from the time that they are children… Encourage them to speak their minds… what we should be saying to our children is that this matters, whatever we are discussing.”
As liberal women, Balaguru vowed that they will “continue to raise awareness of women’s political rights and responsibilities around the world.” (30)