Press Release
February 26, 2019

Be on the side of democracy
*Editor's Note: Below is the full text of Sen. Leila M. de Lima's Speech (minus the greetings/pleasantries) delivered before the Final Blessing of the Holy Mass held at the PNP Custodial Center, Camp Crame, Quezon City last Feb. 24, 2019 in commemoration of the 2nd year of her illegal arrest and unjust detention.

A pleasant morning to everyone!

Two (2) years ago, Feb. 24, before 8:00 in the morning, or right before I stepped out of my Senate office and went down to the parking area to face the PNP arresting team, I convened my staff to bid farewell.

I could see that most of them were trying to hold back their tears. It was a high-stress, high-emotion moment.

I told them--I'm not sure how long this ordeal will last. It could take a few days, a few weeks, a few months or a few years.

A few days or few weeks because we were banking on an immediate injunctive relief, a TRO from the Supreme Court. It didn't come to pass. A few months because we were hoping against hope that the Supreme Court would grant our Petition seeking for the nullification of my arrest. Again, it didn't happen. The majority of the SC chose to turn a blind eye to this gross injustice.

And I will tell you now what I didn't dare openly wish in front of my staff: "Sana few years lang." I did not dare say it loud because I didn't want to give them any sign that I was afraid of a long, drawn-out detention. I didn't want to leave them with fear in their hearts, more than the fear that was already there. I wanted to be strong for them. I was in warrior mode.

And now it's 2 full years. How many more years shall I endure? I want to be confident. No choice but to be confident. But I'm not sure if I can be confident. The state of our justice system hardly inspires confidence.

The last two years have painfully showed me that the judiciary is not immune to the enticing promises of the devil. And it has taught me that, whatever inner strength allowed Jesus to resist temptation all those 40 days in the desert, there are those amidst us now who call themselves "judges" and "justices", and "officers of the court" who do not possess an iota of it.

Save for a few, very few, gone are the legal luminaries, the civil libertarians in the High Court, and the great defenders of Lady Justice who aimed to do "justice" and defend high principles likes "truth" and "equity". They used their brilliant minds to bring light to darkness. Now, there are those who bring obscurity, even when the law and the spirit of the law is clear; who casts shadow where the demands of justice is clear.

Sila yung mahihilig magtago behind "technicalities" and "plain reading of the text". Sabi nga, mahirap gisingin ang nagtutulog-tulugan lang; mahirap makakita ang nagbubulag-bulagan lang.

So, where are my cases now, the drug cases after 2 full years? Finally, trial has commenced. Prosecution has presented its 1st witness, in the person of ret. Police General Benjamin Magalong who did not lie, could not lie, and obviously, did not want to lie. Thank God for that!

When asked by my counsel during the cross-examination last Friday, if in the course of his years of gathering info, intel or otherwise, about the proliferation of illegal drug trade, particularly in Bilibid, there was anything or any info about my alleged involvement therein, Gen. Magalong pointedly responded, there was none. He simply spoke the truth.

But, how many more Magalongs would there be among the long line of prosecution witnesses? Would those Bilibid convicts who have been illegally admitted as State witnesses, and others, be expected to do some truth-telling? I doubt it.

I want to be optimistic, but I am not blind. I can see what is happening in the country at large, as clearly as I can see what is happening in my own cases.

Even the few minor "victories" we achieved, like the inhibition of judges, is proof of what an uphill battle we are facing.

Nobody wanted to touch these trumped-up drug cases. A number of judges have inhibited themselves. I don't blame them. They know that they will be damned if they do justice, and damned if they don't. They know what is at stake: I have to be convicted for this Administration to retain its thin semblance of legitimacy. To do justice to me is to offend the powers that be. To do right is to incur the Duterte wrath.

So it all boils down to how powerful the enemies I have made are. And Duterte is but one of them...Yes, he is the most blatantly and vocally vicious, but I am wise enough to know that he is not alone. You know what they say, no good deed goes unpunished?

Kaya nga today's Gospel strikes hard at me. Parang nananadya si Lord.

Today's Gospel is about loving my enemies. On a theoretical and philosophical level, such a teaching is easy to accept and understand. What good is it to only love those who are good to us?

But a very difficult one to put in practice. So I ask myself, can I love my enemies?

I don't know. For sure, I am not there yet. That is something I have to meditate further about. But I don't know if I will ever get there.

So I ask myself something easier, can I forgive my enemies, even when they have not asked for forgiveness?

In truth, though, I have long ago forgiven those who were merely used as pawns, such as the convicts themselves and others who allowed themselves to be used against me. They aren't the real enemies.

In the end, I think, I can find it in my heart to forgive, but not forget.

Do not ask me to forget. Because to forget is to ask me to surrender my humanity. Someday, I can forgive the real enemies. But I cannot forget.

This reminds me of a question I've been asked lately: why celebrate the anniversary of my arrest and detention?

No, we are not celebrating, but commemorating. Why do we need to commemorate? What's the value in remembering the beginning of all this shame and agony?

Why not? All throughout history, there are days of infamy and events that should never be forgotten:

  • Dec. 7, 1941: the attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States in the World War.

  • Dec. 28: Niños Inocentes Day

  • April 8: the Fall of Bataan

  • The Bataan Death March

  • The martyrdom of our heroes. And so on and so forth.

Where would humanity be if we only remembered the good days? Where would humanity be if it had forgotten the lessons of the past, especially those that were hard-earned?

To let the bad days pass quietly is to surrender hope. To forget those days is to forget those who have been victimized.

If we do not recall what happened to me on this day 2 years ago, people would forget that there exists a Leila de Lima, a victim of political persecution, a victim of injustice.

When people forget, who will fight for justice?

And that is what I ask everyone here to do: Never forget.

Remember, remember the 24th of February. For this is not MY day. It is the day when our commitment to Truth, Justice, Rule of Law, and Democracy were put to test, serious test.

We are still fighting. We have not lost.

We only lose, the moment we forget that there are victims of injustice who are suffering to this day; that our justice system is falling apart; that our democracy is under siege.

Soon, this coming May 2019 elections, the siege will reach another level: the Trojan horses are at the doors of the Senate. They will destroy the remaining shred of independence of that institution.

Unless we do something...

Do something selfless about it.

Reach out to people you would have never reached out to before. Your friends, relatives, colleagues who have disappointed you the last 2 years. Give them the chance to disappoint you again. After all, there is a chance they might surprise you.

For as long as there is .000001 percent chance they can be persuaded to vote for those who would uphold Senate independence (I'm of course referring to OTSO DIRETSO), reach out to them.

Even if you're not a people-person, become one.

Because this is a fight we cannot win individually. This is a team sport, politics is. This is a team effort, nation-building is.

The nation needs that right now. People reaching out, forging allies and alliances, even the most unlikely ones.

Here, we are all members of the same choir. It's a different ballgame out there once you step out of this Custodial Center.

Do what I could not do while I'm currently deprived of my liberty. Reach out to people.

We need them on the side of Democracy and Justice this May 2019.

Maraming, maraming salamat po.

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