IRIGA CITY - Opposition senatorial slate Otso Diretso on Wednesday called for detained Sen. Leila de Lima’s freedom as they campaigned around this city, the Bicolana lawmaker's hometown.
De Lima’s fellow Liberal Party stalwart Erin Tañada was first to publicly call for the detained senator’s freedom in a speech delivered inside the St. Anthony of Padua Parish Church, nestled in the heart of the city.
“Ang laban ni Sen. De Lima ay laban ng Otso Diretso,” Tañada said.
(Sen. De Lima's fight is Otso Diretso's fight.)
“Kaming Otso Diretso ay nananawagan na panahon nang palayain si Sen. De Lima,” he said.
(We in Otso Diretso are calling for Sen. De Lima's release.)
De Lima, a former justice chief, will mark her second year of incarceration on Feb. 24. She was arrested on the date in 2017 over drug charges, which the staunch administration critic branded as political persecution.
Human rights lawyer and founding dean of the De La Salle University's College of Law Chel Diokno said De Lima must be freed to correct her “wrongful detention.”
“I have been personally involved in fighting for Senator De Lima’s release since day 1 and I just want to assure them that we will continue to fight for her,” Diokno, who is part of De Lima’s legal team, told ABS-CBN News.
Local priest Fr. Nono Sañada thanked the candidates for backing Iriga’s homegrown senator.
“We are grateful with that message. We are happy that you are moving strongly for our home senator Leila,” Sañada told the candidates as they sat on the pews alongside parishioners.
Some opposition bets, meanwhile, sought to establish connection with Bicolano voters by citing their ties with other well-known politicians from the region.
Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal namedropped Vice President Leni Robredo, who hails from Naga, as one of his clients.
Macalintal said he also spent some elementary school years in Albay.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano associated himself with fellow mutineer Antonio Trillanes IV, an Albay native.
In the 2016 national elections, De Lima’s hometown Iriga had nearly 60,000 voters, data from the local government showed.
The Bicol vote, which helped Robredo win the vice presidential race, accounted for over 3 million votes in 2016.
Robredo has been joining Otso Diretso activities to endorse the slate, while De Lima, in a statement, “fervently appealed” to Bicolano voters to rally behind opposition candidates.
“Kaipuhan ta matabangan sinda,” De Lima said.
(Let us help them so they can help us.)
Her family hosted Otso Diretso candidates for a feast in their home here.