After almost 2 years in jail, De Lima finally sees mother

Camille Elemia
After almost 2 years in jail, De Lima finally sees mother
'We cried while hugging each other,' says Senato Leila de Lima after seeing her 86-year-old mother, who is suffering from dementia

MANILA, Philippines – After nearly two years in detention, Senator Leila de Lima finally saw her ailing mother just in time for Christmas. 

It was an emotional moment for the mother and daughter, who had not seen each other since the senator was jailed in February 2017.

The family earlier decided to withhold the truth about the condition of the senator, the eldest daughter, to protect their 86-year-old mother, Norma.

But for Christmas, De Lima said her siblings “conspired” to give her the “best” gift. Her mother visited her at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame on Sunday morning, December 23, ahead of the usual weekly mass held in her quarters.

Her mother was accompanied by her aunt, former Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) chief Lilia de Lima, and her brother, Vicente “Nonoy” de Lima Jr.

“I had an incredible moment yesterday. I got my best Christmas gift. My mom, who’s clueless about my situation, visited me for the first time. A most surprising and unexpected visit. She came unannounced,” De Lima said.

“Having missed each other for almost two years, we cried while hugging each other,” she added.

Dementia: Blessing in disguise

De Lima said the family decided to reveal the truth to their mother. This turned out to be “futile” as their mother was suffering from dementia – a blessing of sorts that shields her from the emotional pain, the senator said.

”They finally told her I’m in Camp Crame. But her state of dementia failed to grasp the real import of such a revelation. It blocked her from reality, with all its pains. A stroke of Divine Providence. So much so that when we started bonding, my Mom repeatedly asked, in semi-trance, where we were. She had no idea that this is a detention facility,” De Lima said.

“My brother and I then realized the futility of full disclosure. It no longer matters to our mom where I am or what was done to me. All she wanted was to see me, and vice versa. It was an answered prayer for both of us. God, indeed, has His own ways, different from ours. He throws in His own surprises,” she added.

It will be De Lima’s second Christmas in jail. De Lima, the fiercest critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, is detained for alleged illegal drug trafficking, which she claims are fabricated by Duterte and his people out of vengeance. (READ: De Lima in jail: ‘I never imagined Duterte would be this vindictive’)

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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