De Lima slams Duterte in two September 21 protests

Rambo Talabong
De Lima slams Duterte in two September 21 protests
Despite her detention, Senator Leila de Lima participates in the biggest opposition gatherings so far under President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – From her detention cell, Senator Leila de Lima made sure her voice reached the streets of Manila when the Philippines remembered the 45th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law on Thursday, September 21. 

Through her letters read to thousands of protesters, De Lima slammed President Rodrigo Duterte and compared him to dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who placed the Philippines under Martial Law 45 years ago.

The detained senator also hit Duterte for the deaths of thousands in his war on drugs, as protesters mounted the biggest opposition gatherings under Duterte so far. 

De Lima’s messages were read by former congressman Lorenzo Tañada III in Rizal Park, Manila, and by University of the Philippines professor Sylvia Claudio at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Quezon City.  

In Rizal Park, De Lima warned that Duterte could declare martial law across the country. So far, martial law is implemented only in Mindanao, after clashes erupted between government troops and the terrorist Maute Group on May 23.

De Lima said in a message read by Tañada: “Lahat ng kabulastugan, karahasan, at mga patayang naganap sa nakalipas na mahigit isang taon, nangyari nang wala raw martial law. Isipin n’yo na lang kung saan dadalhin ni Duterte ang bansa oras na may batas militar na sa buong Pilipinas.”

(All of the nonsense, violence, and killings that happened in over a year happened without martial law. Think of where Duterte would bring the country when martial law is implemented across the country.)

At the CHR, De Lima asked Filipinos to remember what the late statesman Jose “Ka Pepe” Diokno fought for. The CHR protest came after the unveiling of the monument of Diokno, considered the father of human rights advocacy in the Philippines. (READ: No cause more worthy: Ka Pepe Diokno’s fight for human rights)

Sa pagtatayo ng monumento niya, itinitindig din natin ang pinaglalaban niyang mga prinsipyo: kalayaan ng bansa, dignidad ng bawat isa, katarungang panlipunan, at karapatang pantao para sa lahat,” De Lima said in a letter read by Claudio.

(With the rise of his monument, we stand for the principles he fought for: freedom of the country, dignity of everyone, social justice, and human rights for all)

Matching the message of protesters in Luneta, De Lima denounced Duterte for the thousands of deaths linked to his unrelenting war on drugs.

Tama si Duterte. Kapag nanalo siyang Pangulo, darating ang pagbabago – pagbabagong kumitil ng mahigit 13,000 Pilipino, kabilang ang mga inosente at batang walang kalaban-laban. Pagbabagong pinapalaya ang mga politikong may matibay na kaso ng pandarambong,” De Lima said in the message read by Tañada.

(Duterte was right. If he wins as President, change would come – change that claimed the lives of more than 13,000 Filipinos, including innocents and defenseless children. Change that frees politicians charged with sound corruption charges.)

With her grievances aired, De Lima urged protesters in her Luneta letter to continue in their “stand for democracy,” despite her not seeing her release any time soon.

Ibinalik man ni Duterte sa madilim na kabanata ang ating bansa, nasa alab pa rin ng ating pagkakaisa ang panunumbalik ng liwanag at pag-asa,” De Lima said. (Duterte may have brought the country back to a dark chapter, but it is the spark of our unity that would bring light and hope back to our country.) –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.