Press Release
May 27, 2021

De Lima calls works of human rights defenders a 'beacon' for future generation to fight for a just world

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has stressed that the efforts and works of human rights defenders in protecting victims of abuses would serve as an inspiration and guide for the future generation of rights activists to carry on the struggle for a more humane and just world.

In a letter she penned for fellow political prisoner Dennise Aquino Velasco dated May 24, De Lima said she hopes that they, along with other persecuted rights defenders, would continue drawing strength from each other to continue working and speaking "for those whose voices are not heard."

"The widespread and systematic attacks of this administration on our democratic institutions and justice system have exacerbated the struggles of trade unionists such as yourself who have been maliciously red-tagged in order to silence dissent over substandard wages and unfair labor practices," part of De Lima's letter read.

Still, the Senator added that "now is not the time to stop defending human rights. Your work, along with those of your colleagues', for the victims of abuses will shine a light that can serve as beacons to the next generation human rights defenders to carry on the struggle for a more just world."

Velasco, who is currently detained at Camp Karingal, sent a letter to De Lima last April 8, wherein she thanked the Senator for the latter's unyielding resolve to fight for and defend human rights.

In Velasco's letter to De Lima, he also asked the lady Senator to continue supporting the fight for truth and freedom of political prisoners, saying, "Sa ilalim ng madilim na panahon ng panunungkulan ni Duterte ay kinakailangan nating magsama-sama para labanan ang patuloy na paghahasik ng terorismo nito sa mamamayan. Alam ko pong kaisa namin kayo dito dahil kayo mismo ay nakararanas ng mga gawa-gawang kaso dahil sa inyong kritikal at mapanuring tindig sa gobyernong Duterte."

It may be recalled that Velasco is among the seven people arrested on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives in a series of police operations as the nation marked International Human Rights Day last December 10. They claimed that police planted evidence into their homes.

As a political prisoner herself, De Lima said she knows firsthand how the Duterte administration can manipulate information, distort the narrative, and use long-established institutions to silence critical dissent over their failures in leadership and governance but she is confident that her conscience is clear.

"In the end, history will not fail us no matter how hell-bent this administration is in twisting the truth. When the last dust settles, trust that you and I and all others like us will be vindicated," she said.

De Lima shared that it is already an unfortunate reality that those who stand up for others are the ones being maligned and attacked because injustice has always been a tool for tyrants to silence people into submission.

"For as long as there are people who hunger for power, we, the human rights defenders, will always suffer attacks from the powers that be," De Lima said.

"That is why it takes an extraordinary amount of courage and tenacity to do what we do; even more so to suffer injustice for fighting for something bigger than ourselves," she added.

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