By Ernie Reyes
Sen. Leila de Lima (Photo courtesy by Twitter)
MANILA — Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has shared a vivid detail of her current situation and how her days usually look like inside her detention quarters in Custodial Center, Camp Crame, giving the public a glimpse not only of her life as the most prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime but also as a mother, grandmother, daughter and sister longing for her loved ones for over four years.
In a piece read/performed by award-winning actress Angel Aquino during an online event called “Free the Word!” organized by the Philippine Center of International PEN last May 15, De Lima said she believes that her story now belongs to a greater narrative of the struggle of ordinary people against social injustice.
“Around 5 x 8 square meters. Spartan by standard with a single bed and a ceiling fan. My entire world pretty much consisted of that limited physical space the last four years. Not even a gateway into the infinity of cyberspace was made available to me,” she shared.
De Lima added that everything that almost every person takes for granted has been denied to her, including, among others, the ability to say good morning to her loved ones, the ability to hold her grandchildren, the ability to kiss her mom on the cheeks, and the ability to praise her son Israel, who has autism, on his latest beautiful artwork.
While her early days of detention were marked with indignation and disbelief, the lady Senator from Bicol shared how she slowly established a daily schedule to make sure she fulfills her work as a sitting Senator of the Republic despite limitations while also attending to her personal needs.
“I recall being sleepless on my first nights inside Camp Crame, thinking of my children and grandchildren whom I wasn’t able to see before my arrest, and my mother whose dementia shielded her from knowing the cruel fate that has befallen her eldest daughter,” she shared.
“Slowly, I established a daily schedule. Nowadays, I wake up at 4:30 a.m. and go to bed between 10:00 to 11:00 p.m. I begin the day with prayers and end it with reading some books. In between, I write my dispatches from Crame, and instructions for my staff. Most of my day is dedicated to Senate paperwork (drafting bills and resolutions, perusing my daily briefing reports, etc.) as I am not yet allowed to participate in Senate deliberations even via teleconferencing,” she added.
De Lima further shared that she also attends to some chores, “such as sweeping my quarters, feeding my adopted stray cats roaming the facility, and watering my plants. By 8:30 a.m., I’ve already exercised and taken a bath. By 5 p.m., I pray the Holy Rosary, read the Bible, and write in my journal.”
Despite her ordeal, De Lima said her faith has never faltered, stressing how she always reminds her staff and family of the importance of surrendering one’s fear, doubts, and anger to God.
“It’s accepting the painful struggle in the promise that nothing lasts forever, and that good will always prevail,” she said.
“And indeed, it is. Last February 17, a few days before the 4th year of my detention, I was acquitted by the Muntinlupa trial court in one of the 3 conspiracy to commit drug trading charges. But more than this acquittal and the crumbling of fabricated evidence against me, it is the courage of ordinary people that inspires me to believe that vindication is near,” she added.
It may be recalled that De Lima, the staunchest critic of the administration’s war on drugs, was illegally detained since Feb. 24, 2017 on bizarre charges that were mostly based on manufactured evidence and perjured testimonies of convicted criminals and shady characters.
A former Chairperson of Commission on Human Rights and Justice Secretary before becoming a Senator, De Lima said that her life has been a life of great achievements, made greater by the unimaginable challenges and even sadness, which always reminds her to continue fighting for life, her country, and humanity.
“We have all been given only one life to live; one country to love and defend; and one humanity that we all belong to and must respect and protect. And those are exactly what I will continue to do for as long as I have breath, and how I hope my life so far and going forward will be defined: Live, Love, Defend, Respect and Protect. For Life. For Country. For Humanity,” she said. (AI/MTVN)