MANILA - Opposition senatorial candidates on Sunday visited Senator Leila De Lima on the second anniversary of her detention for drug charges that she insisted were part of political persecution.
De Lima, a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-narcotics drive, was detained in Feb. 24, 2017 over allegations that she pocketed drug payoffs from convicts at the national penitentiary when she was still justice secretary, which she denied.
Among candidates of the Otso Diretso slate who called on De Lima at the police headquarters were human rights lawyer Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno and reelectionist Senator Bam Aquino. With them was Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party.
While Otso Diretso doubts that De Lima can walk free during the Duterte administration, the slate is confident that truth will eventually come out, said Diokno.
"Lalabas at lalabas ang katotohanan diyan. It will take some time maybe, but I’m sure justice will triumph in the end," Diokno said.
"Sa akin, dapat matagal na siyang pinalaya ng pamahalaan. Two years is too long for her to be in detention," he added.
(The truth will eventually come out... For me, she should have been freed long ago by the government.)
Aquino meanwhile lauded De Lima for fulfilling her duties even while in detention.
"Kahit nakakulong siya, she participates in the Senate. She files resolutions. If she were allowed to go back to the Senate, 'pag napalaya na po siya, mas magiging maganda ang kanyang performance bilang senador ng bayan," he said.
(Even if she is jailed, she participates in the Senate. She files resolutions. If she were allowed to go back to the Senate, once she is freed, her performance as a senator will improve.)
Without access to any electronic gadget and communication device, De Lima authored and co-authored 142 bills and 146 resolutions, with 113 bills and 123 resolutions drafted inside her detention, her office said in a statement.
De Lima remains in fighting form, said Pangilinan, who shared lunch with her family and supporters.
"Matapang pa rin. Hindi nakikita ang anumang kahinaan ng loob. Nandito tayo para ipakita na hindi siya nakakalimutan. Darating din ang araw na siya ay makakalaya sa kanyang detention," he said.
(She's still feisty. She doesn't show any weakness inside. We are here to show that she has not been forgotten. The day that she will be freed from detention will come.)
De Lima, in a statement, said that while the "vengeful Mr. Duterte" has succeeded in confining her to "isolated quarters," he "failed to stop me from fulfilling my public duties in the last two years, and he will continue to fail to do such in the days to come."
The senator was among Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the world in 2017, the Foreign Policy's leading Global Thinkers for 2016 and 2017, Fortune Magazine's 50 Greatest Leaders, and Amnesty International's Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender for 2018, her office noted.
EDSA DEBATE CHALLENGE
Otso Diretso senatorial aspirants challenged opponents to a debate during the commemoration of the EDSA People Power revolution's 33rd anniversary at Plaza Miranda, Manila on Monday noon.
"Hihintayin namin sila doon. Hindi ko alam kung sisipot sila. Basta kami ready kami," said Diokno.
"Kung gusto nila ng ibang lugar, ibang format, wala kaming problema diyan,” he added.
(We will wait for them there. I don't know if they will show up. No matter what, we're ready. If they want a different venue, a different format, we have no problem with that.)