De Lima supporters call for her release after a year in jail

Camille Elemia
De Lima supporters call for her release after a year in jail
The detained senator's supporters launch 'Buwan ni Leila,' a month-long series of activities to fight for her freedom

MANILA, Philippines – Various groups supporting Senator Leila de Lima called for her release on Wednesday, February 14, 10 days before she marks her first year in jail.

Members of EveryWoman, AWARE, Akbayan Women, Baigani, Pandayan Women, Ilaya Women, and the Free Leila Movement trooped to the Senate for the launch of “Buwan ni Leila,” a month-long series of activities to mark the senator’s illegal detention, as they called it.

Former peace process adviser Ging Deles, lead convenor of EveryWoman, reiterated that De Lima is in jail not because of a crime, but because of President Rodrigo Duterte’s vindictiveness. (READ: De Lima in jail: ‘I never imagined Duterte would be this vindictive’)

“Leila’s struggle is every woman’s struggle. One year into Senator De Lima’s incarceration, we, the women of EveryWoman, continue to demand free Leila now. She is in jail because she dared, as CHR (Commission on Human Rights) chair, to investigate the alleged extrajudicial killings of then Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s Davao Death Squad. She’s in jail because she dared as duly elected senator to call for an inquiry into the thousands of murders already happening a month and a half into this administration. She’s in jail because she dared to speak out,” Deles said.

Deles recalled that exactly the same day a year ago, she and other women went to De Lima’s office to show support for the senator’s impending arrest then. They even brought plastic handcuffs to show solidarity. Ten days after, the inevitable happened – the arrest warrant was issued.

Regina Luz from Ilaya Women also vouched for De Lima, as the group maintained that the senator is not involved in the drug trade.

“Patuloy kami sumusuporta kay Senator De Lima. Malakas ang aming paniniwala na siya ay inosente. Nais ko po ireiterate ang suporta sa karapatang pantao at karapatang pangkababaihan,” Luz said.

(We continue to support Senator De Lima. We strongly believe she is innocent. I would like to reiterate our support for human rights and women’s rights.)

Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV also attended the event and showed solidarity with his colleague’s supporters.

Trillanes said he is set to deliver a privilege speech next Wednesday, February 21, to call for De Lima’s release.

“Ang nangyari kay Senator De Lima ay injustice po ito. Hindi po siya criminal. Noong kami po ay nakulong, at least kami alam namin may ginawa kami. Ito ho wala siyang ginawa. Pinag-initan sya, talagang binastardize ang buong justice system. Binaboy para mabalikan si Senator De Lima,” Trillanes said, referring to the coup attempts of the Magdalo group during the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

(What happened to Senator De Lima is injustice. She is not a criminal. When we were jailed, at least we knew we did something wrong. In her case, she has not done anything. The whole justice system was bastardized just to get back at Senator De Lima.)

“At the same time, para magkaroon ng chilling effect ang pagkakulong niya, para matakot ibang senador, eh ‘di naman tayo natatakot diyan (so her detention would have a chilling effect and other senators would be afraid, but we are not scared of that). We will continue to fight for her freedom….Senator De Lima will rise again,” he added.

De Lima, for her part, released a statement thanking her supporters. Despite the loneliness and time away from her family – including her mother who until now does not know her condition – De Lima said she remains “strong and hopeful.”

“Through my faith in God, and through your unwavering support, my spirit remains high and unshakeable. This regime may limit my actions and freedom, but they can never restrain me from being truthful to my words and principles. Maipakulong man nila ako, hindi ko kailanman isusuko ang aking mga ipinaglalaban. I will never be silenced. Paulit-ulit ko pong sinasabi ito  (They might have jailed me but I will never give up my principles. I will never be silenced. I keep on saying that),” De Lima said.

It was on February 24, 2017 when De Lima surrendered to the Philippine National Police (PNP) over drug charges filed against her by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The Supreme Court (SC) has since rejected De Lima’s petition to nullify her arrest warrant.

Other activities for De Lima include a blue ribbon (her chosen symbol) campaign, novena Masses from February 15 to February 23 around Metro Manila, including at the CHR, and a Mass by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas inside the PNP Custodial Center on February 24. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com