MANILA (2ND UPDATE) - For her human rights advocacy, detained Sen. Leila de Lima was chosen as this year's recipient of Liberal International's Prize for Freedom, the "highest human rights honor” given out by the global federation of liberal political parties.
The decision, reached during the federation's 199th executive committee meeting, makes De Lima only the second Filipino to win the award after the late democracy icon former President Corazon Aquino, who was given the honor in 1987.
De Lima, a former Commission on Human Rights chair, Justice Secretary, and briefly chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, is a member of the Philippines' Liberal Party (LP), which is affiliated with LI.
The Prize for Freedom is awarded to “a well-known personality of liberal conviction who has made outstanding efforts for the defense of freedom and human rights,” LI said.
“Leila de Lima has been a flag-bearer for human rights in the Philippines and beyond, setting a shining example for other human rights defenders," Markus Löning, chairman of LI’s Human Rights Committee, said in a statement.
"Even from inside (detention), she keeps fighting for the rule of law and the dignity of individuals. She should immediately be released from pre-trial detention,” he added.
Löning visited De Lima at her detention cell at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City last July.
He called for her "immediate release," casting doubt on testimonies of high-profile inmates whose allegations against De Lima led to her indictment for non-bailable drug charges.
LI President Juli Minoves, who came with Löning for the visit, was meanwhile barred from entering the detention center as his name was not on the list of approved visitors.
LI earlier called for the release of the senator, who has been detained since February for her alleged involvement in the proliferation of illegal drugs in the national penitentiary during her time as justice chief.
De Lima, a fierce critic of the administration's drug war, has repeatedly denied the allegations, branding the charges as "political persecution."
DE LIMA 'HUMBLED', LP FÊTES COLLEAGUE
In a statement, De Lima said she is "humbled" by the honor.
“More than a recognition, I regard this award as an inspiration that strengthens my resolve to continue opposing this murderous regime, its outright disregard for human rights and trampling of human dignity to my last breath, especially because I am not alone in my fight,” she said.
The LP also praised De Lima, saying the prize is a "testament that no walls or prison bars can weaken the spirit of any freedom fighter."
"In some parts of the world that has gone insane -- those that oppress, suppress and jail dissenters -- the recognition given by the Liberal International is a reminder that while we celebrate, we should continue fighting injustice," the party said in a statement.