By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima thanked the young debaters and public speakers within and outside Bicol for joining her in her causes and expressing solidarity with her fight for justice and human rights by participating in the 1st online Bicol-wide public speaking workshop and competition dubbed as “Leila de Lima Cup” yesterday (March 27).
In her opening remarks for the Leila de Lima Cup delivered by her youngest brother Vicente “Vicboy” M. de Lima II, De Lima urged the participants to use their analytical minds and speaking prowess to denounce all forms of injustices promoted and tolerated by the present regime.
“I know that your participation is propelled by your genuine desire to help the country, to join me in my causes, and to aspire justice for all the victims of human rights and social injustice under this murderous regime,” said De Lima, the most prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime.
“All of you here have a distinct advantage because you have a way with words and can use them with impact and clarity. You can unravel big and complex issues and deliver them to the public in a persuasive and unique way. And you can expose the grave lies and injustice of this regime using your analytical minds and speaking prowess,” she added.
The public speaking workshop and competition, spearheaded by the Universidad de Sta. Isabel (USI) Libertas & Debate Society with the theme “Amplifying our Voices through Public Speaking,” registered over 100 participants from junior high school, senior high school, and college levels.
The USI Debate Society said they named the event after De Lima not only because of her excellent public speaking skill but also because of her courage to speak out and fight against injustice.
The main speakers in the event include Hans Xavier Wong, Executive Secretary of the Philippine Debate Union (PDU) and youth Petitioner against the Anti-Terror Law; Mikee De Vega, former PDU President; and Bobby Quitain, lawyer, law professor and Catholic lay preacher.
De Lima, who hails from Iriga City, Camarines Sur, reminded the youth that these are critical times for human rights and self-expression, which she considers as the innate force that drives people to speak, or use sign language, and be understood.
“Takot ang berdugo sa katotohanan. Kaya ang ating unang sandata ay katotohanan din. Ayaw na ayaw niya sa karapatang pantao kaya mortal na kaaway para sa kanya ang sinumang nagsusulong ng karapatang pantao.
“Kaya ang ating sandata ay ang lalong pagsusulong din ng karapatang pantao. Ayaw na ayaw niya sa mga nag-iisip at nagsasalita nang taliwas sa propaganda nila. Kaya ang atin ding sandata ay ang magsalita at umalma laban sa kanilang kasinungalingan,” she said.
“Here, our words are powerful against a tyrant and against injustice and government corruption. And to appropriate Ralph Waldo Emerson’s aphorism: Words are alive. Use them and the tyrant bleeds. Kaya may magagawa tayo,” she added.
Once people have lost their self-expression, or an external force suppressed their rights to freely self-express, De Lima stated that their humanity could be erased and lead the tyrant force to turn them into slaves and treats them without human dignity.
Meanwhile, De Lima, who remains detained over trumped-up drug charges, maintained that there is no better way to use one’s talent than to causes beyond oneself and for the greater good because by doing so, one “will find greater satisfaction, along with personal freedom.” (AI/MTVN)