WATCH | De Lima ‘elated, humbled’ by Prize for Freedom award, vows to keep fighting

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Senator Leila de Lima (Reuters file photo)

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 3:38 PM) Elated and humbled by the Prize for Freedom award conferred by the Liberal International (LI), Senator Leila de Lima vowed on Wednesday to continue fighting the “murderous” Duterte administration.

“I am humbled and honored to be chosen as the recipient of this prestigious Human Rights Prize, which was also bestowed to former president and democracy icon Corazon Aquino,” she said in a statement.

“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 added.

In a separate statement, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, a partymate of De Lima at the Liberal Party (LP), said the senator was bestowed the award even as she languishes in prison “for fabricated and politically-motivated” charges.

“It is a pathetic irony that while freedom fighters and human rights advocates are depreciated by the present leadership in their own country, they are greatly appreciated elsewhere in the world,” Lagman said.

De Lima has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame since February this year.
During its 199th Executive Committee meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa this week, the LI announced it is conferring the Prize for Freedom – the global federation’s highest human rights honor — on De Lima.

More than 100 liberals from 32 countries participated in LI’s 199th Executive Committee meeting. (See https://liberal-international.org/news-articles/philippines-political-prisoner-de-lima-receive-lis-top-human-rights-award/

In an official statement, Markus Löning, Chairman of LI’s Human Rights Committee who visited and met with the Senator last July, cited De Lima as the perfect embodiment of a leader who fights for what is right despite political oppression.

“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. Even from inside the prison she keeps fighting for the rule of law and the dignity of individuals. She should immediately be released from pre-trial detention,” Löning said.

According to LI, De Lima will be the second Filipino to accept the Human Rights Prize, after then President Corazon Aquino in 1987, who was recognized “for her world-renowned advocacy of democracy, peace, and the empowerment of women.”

LI noted the award is given to “a well-known personality of liberal conviction who has made outstanding efforts for the defense of freedom and human rights.” Other recipients of the prestigious award include the imprisoned Saudi liberal blogger Raif Badawi (2016), Helen Suzman (2002), Martin Lee (1996) and was first awarded in 1986.

The third international organization that sent representatives to visit De Lima in detention, LI had previously denounced the arrest of De Lima as politically motivated.

A network of over a hundred liberal and democratic parties in the world, LI also urged the Duterte administration to immediately release De Lima from continued unjust detention and allow her to fulfill her mandate as a sitting Senator of the Republic.

Prior to this award, De Lima was also recognized by Foreign Policy magazine as one of 100 leading Global Thinkers for 2016, by Time Magazine as one of 100 Most Influential People, as one of the Icons, for 2017, and by Amnesty International as one of the notable Women Human Rights Defenders in 2017.

LP’s statement

The Liberal Party said in a statement the prize “is a testament that no walls or prison bars can weaken the spirit of any freedom fighter. Democratic change is a legitimate and rightful dream.”

The LP added: “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. With this award, the Liberal Party is even more emboldened and inspired to stay firm in its conviction to fight for human rights and the people’s freedoms amid the formidable odds.”

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