“Mr. President, lock me in jail for as long as you want but please just stop the killings.”
This was the bargain Senator Leila De Lima is willing to make with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Fr. Robert Reyes told the Inquirer.
De Lima celebrated her 58th birthday on Sunday, August 27 while in detention at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
A fierce critic of Duterte, the senator has been condemning the administration’s “brutal” crackdown on narcotics that resulted to allegedly thousands of summary executions and human rights abuses.
De Lima was arrested in February over drug-related charges but fellow opposition members described her as the administration’s first political prisoner.
According to Reyes, De Lima remains in high spirit.
“Senator Leila said she thanked God for giving her 58 wonderful years,” Reyes said. “She is enraged by what is happening, especially the drug killings, but she said she would not be consumed by negativism.”
As for her birthday wish, the senator said that she praying this year will be the first and last time she celebrates her birthday in detention.
De Lima added that she wished for “vindication” as well as freedom “not only from the injustice of my detention under the Duterte regime but also freedom from the lies and slander on my womanhood and person.”
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, also a vocal critic of the administration and De Lima’s political ally, described the mood at the custodial center as “festive.”
“I told her that this too shall pass and that she has a larger mission ahead of her,” Trillanes said, adding that he also told her they were still “actively pursuing her case.”
Apart from Trillanes, also present were former Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, former tourism secretary Ramon Jimenez, former budget chief Florencio Abad and daughter Julia Abad, Ging Deles, former presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles, and former education secretary Bro. Armin Luistro.
Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, former Akbayan representative Ibarra Gutierrez, and former Civil Service Commission chairperson Karina David also joined the celebration.
Former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III reportedly visited De Lima a week before her birthday.