Press Release
November 20, 2019

1,000 Days: Still Fighting and Keeping Truth Alive
Hon. Leila M. de Lima
On the occasion of my 1,000th Day of Unjust Detention

University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City
20 November 2019

Warmest and most dignified greetings from the proudest detainee inside the PNP Custodial Center.

I am a Senator of the Republic of the Philippines, who has been unjustly incarcerated for 1,000 days now. All because I chose - and continue to choose - to speak and stand for the truth. I have been maligned, and I have been persecuted. Yet I have never been defeated and never been stripped of my dignity, though my oppressors surely gave it their best try.

Locked gates and armed police officers may stand between me and the rest of the world, but my soul, my heart and my mind have never been freer. All because Truth and true Justice are on my side.

I could choose to be afraid and cowed by the powerful and influential people who are punishing me for daring to speak truth to power, and for having the audacity to faithfully perform my sworn duties as a public officer without fear or favor. Yet I choose not to be silenced and, instead, I choose to continue spreading the Truth, ever louder than ever.

Admittedly, there are whispers of fear that pass through me from time to time.

More fear-provoking than my physical isolation from the outside world are the thoughts that I may never be able to see my loved ones again, and that I may never be restored to my old, ordinary life of simple pleasures and freedoms, the kind that most of us tend to take for granted.

There is always that creeping hopelessness, but I refuse to give in. Napapagod pero hindi kailanman sumusuko.

Because more than fear and stronger than the creeping hopelessness, is my defiant spirit fueled both by the justness of my cause and the sense of solidarity I am blessed and honored to receive from people all over the world - not the least of all at this very moment and on the hallowed grounds of the University of the Philippines, where the words "Freedom" and "Sacrifice" go hand and hand, and together take on a life of their own - capable of toppling even the most power-hungry of tyrants.

Kaya tuwing tila humahaba ang mga araw; tuwing dumidilim ang mundo; at tuwing tila mas lalong nagiging mailap ang katarungan, ay nasasambit ko ang mga linya mula sa Panalangin ng Sakripisyo:

... let me become an instrument of blessing for others. ... grant me the humility to be broken and given for others. ... Teach my mind and direct my will to humbly endure the pain of undeserved suffering even when my intent was good and done what is right. ...

And with those words, my spirit is whole again, and my will to keep fighting is stronger than ever. Not just because I know that my intent was good and I had done what was right.

But more importantly because this undeserved pain is not for nothing.

Because this is not about me. I am but an instrument.

My story is not my own. It is but a platform to tell the story of thousands of others; a part of the continuing saga of a people waging a battle far bigger than my own suffering.

For beyond the walls of my detention cell, for others, death is the price that they pay for standing up for what is right and just, or for simply being poor.

An estimated 27,000 people - human beings, with families and loved ones - have been killed in the so-called "drug war"; at least 43 lawyers, prosecutors, and judges have been murdered in broad daylight; and at least 155 human rights defenders have been summarily executed in the government's War against Democracy and the Rule of Law. Three years of impunity, three more years of deceit and bloodlust.

What is 1,000 days of detention to the eternal agony of a mother who lost her beloved child in a sham war against drugs?

While in detention, I am learning life's greatest lessons from the struggles of ordinary Filipinos. I am as humbled as I am inspired. If they, who have seen and felt the worst, can still stand and fight for other people, even in the face of terror, what right do I have to look the other way and live in comfortable silence? I have chosen to take their struggle as my own, as they have taken mine as theirs.

On that note, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all of you, for your untiring love and support since Day 1. Life for all of us has been made even more difficult by this administration. Napakasikip na ng espasyo para kumilos at magpahayag. But you never faltered, you never allowed yourself to be cowered into silence and defeat. So how could I?

I also want to thank the members of my staff for their unwavering dedication and hard work. I know. The workload has been tremendous since I was unjustly detained. It has taken most of their weekends and even their holidays for the past 1,000 days, pero nandiyan pa rin sila.

We all know what is in store for us in the next three years. It will not get any easier with Mr. Duterte desperately clinging to whatever is left of his power. Ngunit tuloy ang laban kasama ang mga pamilyang naulila ng madugong giyera kontra droga, at mga iba pa na niyurakan ang mga karapatang pantao.

It is only through our collective determination that we can defeat a tyrant who keeps mocking our pain and making light of our victories.

When I surrendered to the arresting officers on February 24, 2017, I said that it is my honor to be jailed for my convictions. Today, 1,000 days since my arrest, I say it again: Karangalan ko po na makulong dahil sa mga ipinaglalaban ko.

Karangalan ko din na maging bahagi ng malawak na kilusang lumalaban para sa Katarungan at Katotohanan.

At dahil nagkakaisa tayo sa paghihirap, iisa rin tayo sa tagumpay.

Palagian po nating tandaan: hindi laging maghahari ang dilim.

Our truth will defeat their lies.

Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.

Editor's Note: Message of Sen. Leila M. de Lima, as delivered by her Deputy Chief of Staff Atty. Catherine Sy, on her 1000th day of unjust detention held at Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Grounds, Diliman Quezon City, 20 November 2019

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