Press Release
November 29, 2020

Sen. Leila M. de Lima's Message for Tanggol Bayi's Webinar, #SheDefends: Tea Time with Women Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines

A mother of an EJK victim who visited me in detention told me she felt his son's hands slowly grow cold and stiff as he lay dying on that bloodied pavement near their house. She also told me, with conviction, that she will fight till her last breath for mothers like her. In the many years of being a lawyer, public servant, and human rights defender, I thought I already knew the strength of a woman who fights. But it is only through women like her that I came to realize how formidable indeed is the strength of one who fights for others even as she is also fighting her own battles.

Almost four years ago, amid the deliberate and calculated attacks of this regime against me, women were the first to come to my defense. And today, even as I am surrounded by walls of a detention cell, I stand tall in solidarity amongst women who refused to cower into submission despite the relentless determination of macho-fascists to crush us.

We are increasingly becoming targeted over the world amid the global rise of strongmen who are setting back the slow and painful advancements in the struggle for women's equality and dignity.

I, myself, am part of this fight for fundamental freedoms and social justice, and for that, have been unjustly detained for 1,375 days now for speaking truth to power when I called for a Senate investigation into Duterte's murderous war on drugs.

Duterte himself attacked me with gutter and vile sexism turning a sham congressional inquiry into the illegal drug trading inside New Bilibid Prison a free-for-all circus that saw mostly convicted felons spouting coached and false testimonies against me. It was really meant to silence and intimidate me, with my cell phone number even broadcasted in public. As such, I personally received thousands of hate messages assaulting my very person with malicious insults and grave threats.

The unprecedented vilification and harassment launched against me by the government-backed social media army had turned upside down my untarnished record of good governance almost overnight. No less than administration officials touted me as a "Bilibid drug queen" and "mother of all drug lords", even without the slightest shred of evidence, only lies orchestrated and repeated aggressively at Duterte's behest.

Almost 4 years into my ongoing trial for three-drug related cases, and Prosecution witnesses--representatives from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), and even a convicted drug lord--have confirmed under oath, on cross examination, that they know nothing about my alleged drug links.

My persecution, however, is but a part of the greater ordeal of the Filipino people. And if my story can serve as a platform to tell the world of the continuing battle being waged by ordinary Filipinos against a regime of lies and butchery, then so be it.

My experience has given me greater determination to stand up against perpetrators of misogynistic attacks, gender-based violence, discrimination, defamation and lawfare against the courageous women who work tirelessly for gender equality, human rights and democracy.

We persist in calling out injustices in defense of the abused, oppressed, and marginalized. We also persist in supporting each other with vigilance so that we can continue demanding for accountability and uphold human rights without fear of reprisal or danger to our lives.

Patuloy na inaatake ang ating pagiging babae dahil akala nila ito ang ating kahinaan. Napakalaking pagkakamali. Ang tiyak din natin, ginagamit ni Duterte na pang-atake ang kanyang pagiging macho pasista dahil akala niya ito ang kanyang kalakasan.

Maraming salamat, Tanggol Bayi. Ang sabi nga natin, ang maging babae sa panahon natin, ay maging babaeng nakikipagdigma para sa Kalayaan (To be a woman in our time, is to be a woman fighting a war for freedom).


PNP Custodial Center, Camp Crame

29 November 2020

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