MANILA - Senators on Sunday called for unity and peace in the country as Filipinos celebrate Christmas.
In a statement, Senator Joel Villanueva expressed gratitude for "tremendous opportunities" bestowed upon the Filipino people amidst all the challenges.
"This holiday season, I pray for unity and peace in our nation and may the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ bring new hope for the Philippines," he said.
Senator Nancy Binay said Filipinos always find hope and joy in celebrating Christmas as she asked them to "share the happiness and the love in our hearts to lift the spirits and improve the lives of those struck by accidents, incidents, and tragedies in the past."
For Senator Loren Legarda, the season is also a time for reflection and gratitude apart from the festivities.
"As we end this year and welcome a new one, let us appreciate the experiences we had and the people who have helped us turn our adversities into triumphs, misgivings into wisdom, and doubts into hope," she said.
"In this time of giving, let us express our gratitude to those who have shown us love and compassion by also sharing what we have, whether material things or the warmth of genuine kindness and concern to those who need it most--the underprivileged and the vulnerable. May we continue to be inspired to pursue advocacies that would bring joy and happiness to everyone."
Liberal Party President Francis Pangilinan also took note of how 2017 "made it difficult for plenty of families to celebrate their Christmas with the usual joy and vigor."
"Many lost family and friends to a bloody campaign that has resulted in pain and grief for its victims. Many will celebrate away from the homes they have been denied the chance to return to. Many will celebrate alone," he said in a statement.
"But although it is saddening, they represent the heart of the fighting Filipino: we are a resilient people, a nation that always looks to hope and love when all seems too difficult. Without a doubt, they will find a way to greet the Birth of Christ with smiles on their faces," he added.
Like Pangilinan, detained Senator Leila de Lima highlighted that despite the season's celebrations, Christmas also brought about sadness to families that would be missing their loved ones.
"Ipanalangin sana natin ang mga pamilyang sasalubungin ang Pasko sa evacuation centers dahil sa pagsalanta ng kalamidad, gayundin ang mga kinailangang lumikas dahil sa kaguluhan. Ipanalangin din natin ang mga naulilang ina, ama, asawa, anak at kapatid na haharapin ang Pasko sa gitna ng pagluluksa at paghahanap ng hustisya sa mga pinaslang ng madugong pamamalakad ng rehimeng Duterte," she said in a statement.
"Sa ikalawang Pasko ng bansang ito sa ilalim ng kasalukuyang gobyerno, nagpapatuloy at lalo pang naging hayag at lantaran ang pag-udyok ng karahasan, ang pagkakalat ng kasinungalingan, at ang paniniil sa mga hindi sumasang-ayon sa mga pagmamalabis sa kapangyarihan."
From her detention center at the police headquarters in the capital, De Lima said she also prays for a miracle that President Rodrigo Duterte will order a stop in the killings and for justice to be served on the culprits.
"Gaya noong nakaraang Pasko, dalangin pa rin natin ang magkaroon ng milagro kung saan ipag-uutos na ni Duterte ang pagpapahinto sa mga patayan at ang pagpapanagot sa mga nagkasala," she said.
"Matapos ang isa’t kalahating taon sa puwesto, bigyang pansin na rin sana ng gobyerno ang mga tunay na suliranin ng kahirapan at kawalan ng pag-asa ng marami nating kababayan — ang problema sa trabaho at kita ng mga manggagawa, ang pagkawasak ng kalikasan, ang katiyakan sa paninirahan ng mga katutubo at maralitang taga-lungsod, edukasyon para sa kabataan, at soberanya ng Inang Bayan.
"Sa halip na galit, paghihiganti, at pansariling agenda, pagsilbihan naman sana ng administrasyong ito ang mas nakararaming Pilipino at ang interes ng Pilipinas," she added.
The 58-year-old senator is accused of accepting drug money from prisoners when she was justice secretary from 2010 and 2015. She is not entitled to bail and, if found guilty, faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
She has denied the allegations, claiming she had been locked up to stop her from criticizing the administration's war on drugs that has seen thousands of suspected criminals killed.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame has allowed visitors to see De Lima on Christmas eve, day and on New Year's eve and day.