Aquino to Filipinos: Speak now before you’re stifled like De Lima

Mara Cepeda

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Aquino to Filipinos: Speak now before you’re stifled like De Lima
'Habang hindi pa tayo tinamaan, hindi kaya mas marapat dito na tayo manindigan? Kaysa naman maramdaman na natin ang nararamdaman ni Leila nang dire-diretso," says former president Noynoy Aquino

MANILA, Philippines – Former president Benigno Aquino III rallied Filipinos to oppose the abuses under the Duterte regime, saying they should not wait until they are stifled like detained Senator Leila de Lima. 

This was Aquino’s rallying cry on Wednesday, November 20, as De Lima’s supporters called for her freedom on her 1,000th day in Camp Crame. (READ: [OPINION] Lawfare: The silent pandemic afflicting the world)

“So mga kasama, simpleng-simple lang ho, ano?… Puwede tayong magwalang kibo. Puwede nating hindi intindihin ‘yung nangyayari sa kapiligiran natin. At hinahanda na natin ‘yong pagkakataon na tamaan tayo,” said the former president.

(To everyone here, it’s simple, right?… We can just do nothing. We can just ignore what’s been happening around us. And we are setting ourselves up to be attacked as well.) 

“Tanong ho, habang hindi pa tayo tinamaan, hindi kaya mas marapat dito na tayo manindigan? Dito na tayo magsabing hindi tama ang nangyayari? Kaysa naman, ‘di ba, maramdaman na natin ang nararamdaman ni Leila nang dire-diretso,” he added. 

(Let me ask, isn’t it the right time for us to take a stand when we are not being attacked yet, that this is the right time for us to call out the wrong things that are happening now? We should stand up now, instead of us experiencing what Leila is going through.) 

De Lima is a fierce critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent war against drugs that has killed more than 6,000 people. Human rights groups, however, estimate the numbers could reach almost 27,000 to include victims of vigilante-style killings. (READ: The Impunity Series)

De Lima has been detained since February 24, 2017, due to what she called trumped-up multiple drug charges. (READ: Int’l rights group seeks U.N. experts’ help in De Lima release)

But her detention has not stopped De Lima from criticizing the Duterte administration as she regularly sends out dispatches from prison.

Aside from De Lima, other opposition figures have been subjected to harassment by the Duterte administration. Vice President Leni Robredo and 35 other individuals are facing an inciting to sedition complaint over their alleged involvement in a plot to oust Duterte, which they had denied. 

De Lima will not be silenced

De Lima’s supporters marked her 1,000th day in prison by holding an indignation run from the office of the Commission on Human Rights along Commonwealth Avenue to the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice inside the University of the Philippines-Diliman campus in Quezon City. 

Apart from Aquino, the gathering was attended by Liberal Party (LP) stalwarts like party secretary-general Quezon City 6th District Representative Jose Christopher Belmonte, LP vice president for external affairs Erin Tañada, and former Quezon City congressman Bolet Banal. 

Barry Gutierrez, spokesperson of Robredo, also called for De Lima’s release. He said spending 3 years in jail did not stop De Lima from telling the truth.  

“Sa loob ng 1,000 araw na ‘yan, kung ang intensyon ay patahimikin sa Senator Leila, hindi sila nagtagumpay. Kung ang intensyon ay takutin si Senator Leila, hindi sila nagtagumpay. Kung ang intensyon ay pigilin ‘yong kanyang paglabas ng katotohanan, hindi sila nagtagumpay,” said Gutierrez.

(In those 1,000 days, if the intention was to stifle Senator Leila, then they did not succeed. If the intention was to scare Senator Leila, they did not succeed. If the intention was to stop her from telling the truth, they did not succeed.)

“Ngayong araw na ‘to, sana gamitin natin [ito para] lalong palakasin ang ating determinasyon na tayo ay tatayo para sa tama (Let us use this day to strengthen our determination to stand up for what is right),” he added

Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas, Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago, former Magdalo congressman Gary Alejano, former Akbayan congressman Tom Villarin, and former Bayan Muna congressman Neri Colmenares were also present on Wednesday.

De Lima’s supporters ended the day with a Mass, which were attended by Caloocan Bishop-Emeritus Deogracias Iñiguez, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, as well as Father Flaviano Villanueva, Father Albert Alejo,and  Father Robert Reyes – 3 priests included in the sedition complaint against the opposition. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.