Wednesday, June 20, 2018
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At Large

De Lima’s words

By now, all those interested in and concerned with the plight of Sen. Leila de Lima should be familiar with her handwriting. The penmanship is spiky, distinctive. The words, on single sheets of note paper, touch on a wide range of subject matter, from personal messages to analyses of and reactions to national events and policies.

This is what a sitting government official has been reduced to: sending out handwritten missives in an age of digital communication, which would otherwise take but a few seconds to make their way around the world. The reason for this is that De Lima has been held in isolation with virtually no form of communication — no cell phone, no computer, not even a landline.

Bereft of any form of constant or even regular human company, save perhaps for her jailers, the senator has had to resort to a series of dispatches, and released only sporadically. Still she remains remarkably in touch with events and developments outside, especially in the political arena.

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These messages are collected in a volume, “Dispatches from Crame I,” released earlier this year. They are windows to the mind, heart and experiences of the senator, held in detention on trumped-up drugs charges on account, as it is believed and proven by subsequent events, of her outspoken criticism informed by her background as justice secretary and chair of the Commission on Human Rights. Certainly, in her short stint in the Senate premises, she showed herself to be an outspoken, credible and courageous critic of the Duterte administration. So, her arrest and detention, based on the questionable and suspicious testimony of drug lords she had put behind bars, was obviously meant to silence her and deprive her of a forum for her independent views and courageous criticism.

What struck me, though, was that even in her isolation, De Lima’s thoughts were directed toward her loved ones, including her late father who was largely responsible, she writes, for “the molding of my character, personality and values.” What would he think of her present situation? she wonders. “I can only thank my dear dad,” she says, “for such a gift of foresight and his perseverance in instilling in me an unbreakable fiery spirit.”

Writing of her special son and grandson, she reflects that “their perpetual innocence and purity in spirit insulate them from the cruelty and irrationality of humankind. They have a world of their own which I imagine is one free of pretensions and bitterness.”

Such obliviousness is unfortunately not available to the senator. And neither would she want to be handed this “gift,” given her determination, she writes, “to forge on and stand in defense of what I believe is right.”

De Lima fights on — with the five fingers of one hand splayed open in the gesture that is not only a graphic representation of her name but also a symbol of her determination to “stop” everything that is wrong with this government. As she says: “I may be the one in detention, but I know I am not the only one suffering nor the only one fighting.”

Another woman currently in the cross-hairs of the Duterte administration — along with other women who’ve earned the President’s ire — is Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. She is currently battling a quo warranto petition seeking her instant dismissal from the Supreme Court, and even if she overcomes that, she faces impeachment by the House.

In a message to the academic community, Ateneo de Manila University president Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ, observes that “it should alarm us when several justices who will decide on [the case] are among those who have accused her of wrongdoing … thus effectively prejudging the matter. How will justice and fairness now prevail?”

The university, said Father Villarin, “expresses its dismay and disappointment at how vicious and malicious the search for accountability has become. It cannot not speak.” Thus, it “categorically calls on the Supreme Court to dismiss the quo warranto petition filed against the Chief Justice,” praying that God help “our people and our democracy,” as well as all the justices of the Supreme Court.

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TAGS: At Large, Dispatches From Crame, Leila de Lima, Rina Jimenez-David
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