Sen. Leila De Lima
By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima commended one of her closest spiritual advisers, Fr. Flavie Villanueva, SVD, for being the first Filipino to receive recognition from the Dutch government for his work as a human rights defender.
De Lima, social justice and human rights champion, said Villanueva’s extraordinary devotion to service and in truly living the teachings of God is a sterling example and inspiration to everyone.
“I join the human rights community, here and abroad, in congratulating Fr. Flavie as the first Filipino human rights defender to be conferred the Human Rights Tulip Award by the Dutch government for his contribution in the promotion of human rights in the Philippines, especially his life-changing interventions to families and survivors affected by extrajudicial killings perpetrated under Duterte’s War on Drugs,” she said.
A missionary from the Society of the Divine Word (SVD), Villanueva received the Human Rights Tulip Award from the Government of the Netherlands. He was conferred the honor through the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Nov. 24.
According to the embassy, Villanueva was recognized for his work as co-founder of the Paghilom (healing) program, a Church-based support group that was established to help widows, orphans, family members and communities of EJK victims in healing and rebuilding their lives.
For his part, Villanueva said, “I received it on behalf of the widows and orphans who are struggling to rise from the ashes and seek both healing and justice.”
De Lima said Villanueva has not wavered or shrunk in fear or hopelessness despite the personal threats, incessant vitriol from detractors, lack of funds, and the heavy challenge to care for the survivors of EJK.
“He has likewise blazed trails in providing a sanctuary for the homeless as well as feeding, hygiene and nutrition programs for them,” she said.
The lady Senator from Bicol said she is thankful that she gets to spend some time, albeit limited, with the priest, who gives him spiritual advice.
“I am honored and grateful that he still reserves some time to occasionally visit me and check on my condition here in my detention quarters as a dear friend and spiritual adviser,” she said.
“Maraming salamat sa walang pagod na pag-aaruga sa mga kababayan nating higit na nangangailangan. Maraming salamat sa patuloy na pagtatanggol para sa aking agarang paglaya at pagkamit ng hustisya. Again, congratulations Fr. Flavie! Karangalan ko na maging kaibigan mo,” she added.
It may be recalled that Duterte previously threatened to kill Catholic clergy who are opposed to his government’s drug war policy that resulted in the thousands of extrajudicial killings in the country. (ai/mtvn)