Conversation with Sen. Leila, detainee (3)
Q: Were you ever near breaking point?
A: Never. But I consider being denied attendance to my son’s law school graduation one of my saddest days. It was also very difficult when I had to say goodbye to my ailing mother in Iriga City after a short furlough.
Q: Please tell us about your dark and desolate moments.
A: In my situation, I try hard not to give space for negative sentiments or to be consumed by darkness. But there are, of course, moments of sadness, especially when I think of my late father, my mentor and role model.
Q: Your source of hope and light.
A: I hold dearly the moment my mother, who has dementia and was bedridden at that time, recognized me when I was granted furlough. I was able to kiss and embrace her. I pray she will be able to welcome me when I am finally freed.
My family and the people who believe in me and are fighting with me in this battle, are my sources of hope and light. Over the last 4 years I’ve received messages from supporters in the form of social media posts or personal letters. Those make my days brighter and give me so much hope. Those letters about justice, human rights, and the importance of protecting our democracy are the sign that we have not lost our soul as a nation.
Q: What makes you laugh?
A: I enjoy a good laugh from the memes that my staff regularly send me. I’m amazed at how social commentaries have evolved in form.
Q: What are your moments of prayer and silence like?
A: It’s usually in the early morning and early evening. It’s very intimate and truly a spiritual communion with God, humbling and full of reflection. I pour out my thoughts and emotions to Jesus.
Amid the persecution, my faith in God has never faltered. Surrendering your fears, your doubts and anger to God does not mean consenting to the abuse and suffering. Rather, it’s accepting the painful struggle in the promise that nothing lasts forever, and that good will always prevail. “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”
Q: Tell us about your family, how they are coping.
A: Because of the pandemic, visits have been restricted. Only my immediate family, doctors, lawyers, spiritual advisers, and select staff are allowed and only for a limited time. My family has been my constant source of strength—my 2 sons and 2 grandchildren, and 3 siblings. My eldest son, Israel, and oldest grandchild, Brandon, are special, with autism. They’re my angels. They have always been low profile but now, my youngest brother is in the public eye, telling the world of my story in a quest for my vindication.
Q: The groups—local and international—that consistently and openly support you.
A: The support has been overwhelming and constant. Members of the Senate and House minority, alongside numerous progressive groups in the Philippines, have condemned my ongoing detention and exclusion from Senate proceedings.
The rest of the world, from foreign parliamentarians to human rights groups and international organizations, have similarly called for my release. Many have stood by my side, believing in my innocence and denouncing my political persecution and the human rights abuses and attacks on democracy in our country.
Q: Can you name some?
A: Resolutions and statements issued by the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, UN Special Rapporteurs, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Parliamentarians for Global Action, World Organisation Against Torture, International Federation for Human Rights, International Commission of Jurists, Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, and lawmakers from the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, and Asia, among others.
All these prove that, indeed, the world is watching.
(To be concluded)
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