Part II of the Leila de Lima’s latest book Fight for Freedom
is a collection of three keynote messages delivered by Emily Lighau, known for championing press freedom and human rights, Juli Minoves, president of Liberal International, and Leni Robredo, vice president of the Republic of the Philippines, during the awarding ceremony of the Liberal International Prize for Freedom on July 28, 2018. The senator was the principal awardee.
Lau, former member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council, delivered a message of solidarity. In her message, Lau recalled her conversation with the detained senator when she (Lau) visited her in the detention cell together with two other women of the Women Caucus of the Council of Asian Liberals. There De Lima expressed her fear for her safety. To the listeners, Lau cited the oft-repeated saying: the people get the government that they deserve and challenged the audience to speak out because when everyone is scared then the tyrants will always get the things their way.
In his message, Minoves, Liberal International President, said: “Twenty-one years later, representatives of the global liberal family are in the Philippines to honor another human rights hero, although circumstances on this occasion do not give us cause to celebrate as we did in 1987. xxx Instead, representatives of our global political family are here today to join hands with millions of Filipinos as we shine a light into what has become a shady political atmosphere and a subject of global consternation—some of the very threats to freedom that we warned of when defining the challenges to liberalism in the 21st century as set out in our Andorra Liberal Manifesto which we adopted in our 70th Anniversary Congress last year.”
Liberal International, Minoves added, is taking seriously Senator De Lima’s incarceration, the unfair and the unjust incarceration, who has not just been unjustly detained for 520 days that we (the members of the organization) have traveled to the Philippines from afar to present this award. According to him, Senator De Lima’s struggle, her sacrifice, is not solely a Filipino matter, nor is it even an Asian matter.
Leila’s cause transcends petty political rivalries and regional nuances. She personifies humanity’s shared aspiration for universal human rights and it is apposite that she is being awarded the Prize for Freedom in this 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He then reminded the President of the Philippines that Human rights are for all or they are for nothing, that the world is indeed watching, and Leila de Lima’s unjust detention will not be forgotten.
In her keynote speech entitled “The Indomitable Spirit of a Freedom Fighter,” Robredo said that “this recognition, alongside many notable citations and awards that Senator Leila has received in the recent times, is testament to her fearlessness and indomitable spirit as a freedom fighter. It proves that fighting for what you know is right and just—no matter where you are and who you are up against—matters deeply in healing our nation’s shattered spirits and hopes. And that fighting for human rights has become one of the most important struggles of today’s world, affecting with increasing urgency, the everyday lives of our people.”
Robredo lamented the many deaths in the campaign against drugs, saying: “So many lives are on the line in this battlefield. In the past two years, we faced the reality that death and violence have become the preferred means with which to wage the war on illegal drugs—with no end in sight. The numbers have been contentious, from 3,000 to 25,000, but the reality is that one death is already far too many.” Yet notwithstanding this reality, she expressed her belief in the Filipino people who are “naturally empathic people, with a depth of love for freedom and their rights that will not be snuffed out by any tyrant.”
In Robredo’s own words: “We have had a long history of bloody struggles in very dark times, and I refuse to believe that we suffered them for nothing. We will prevail. We will keep on keeping on. Celebrated writer Khalil Gibran once wrote, and I could not help but share with you this quote: ‘You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care, nor your nights without a want and a grief, but rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.’”
For Senator Leila, according to the vice president, “the fight has also been clear as day, that even in detention, she has shaken ground and inspired fellow advocates of the law, here and abroad. “We all have roles to play, and it is important that we know where we are placed and what we should do to win,” she added.
With supporters and friends like these, Senator De Lima is assured of respect and admiration. I too think of her in the same way. I know she has faults and excesses, but her heroism in the face of what has been done to her has vindicated her. These testimonies attest to that.
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