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ON HER 60th BIRTHDAY: De Lima wants vindication as she vows to continue working

QUEZON CITY --- Ahead of her birthday last Tuesday, her 60th, Sen. Leila M. de Lima’s family, friends, and supporters gathered on Sunday inside the PNP Custodial Center for a Mass followed by lunch.

It was her 913th day of unjust detention and the Opposition Senator from Bicol told her guests that she has never imagined she would spend the day she becomes a senior citizen behind bars.

Instead of transitioning from a life filled with crises to more serene years, De Lima has declared that she has grown more determined to prove her innocence with two recent events happening in her personal life—her youngest son becoming a full-fledged lawyer, and her mother’s declining health.

“I want the good name of my family fully restored. I want not just to be released from detention, but to be unequivocally and categorically declared innocent,” De Lima said.

“I don’t want to see my family, my sons, my grandchildren, and my siblings, carry the burden of defending me from all these false allegations. I want to do it myself,” she added.

Earlier, several of her guests including colleagues Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon and Sen. Risa Hontiveros, thanked De Lima for her perseverance and service to the Filipino people.

Rep. Edcel Lagman, in reference to the homily about the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus said that “there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last” upon being asked who will be saved, noted that De Lima was the first to speak out against the extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration’s war on drugs and to this day she remains in detention.

Lagman added that De Lima is in the good company of others who also spent their birthdays in detention such as former Senators Ninoy Aquino and Pepe Diokno, as well as Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Former Rep. Gary Alejano, who was detained for six years in the same facility, said to De Lima that time spent imprisoned is not in vain because it will teach you things that can’t be learned outside, such communing with God and making one’s purpose clearer.

While some may have been feeling “burned out” from taking the opposition stand, former Rep. Tom Villarin said that “it is impossible to think we can stop, that there is no hope, that we cannot speak out, and that we cannot take a stand because we owe as much to the next generation.”

De Lima told her guests that there will be more crises ahead, and that she is thinking of other ways to fulfill her legislative mandate.

As such, she is thankful to Senators Drilon and Panfilo Lacson for filing Senate Resolution No. 51 that seeks to allow her to participate in plenary sessions through teleconferencing.

“I don’t want to just participate. I want to really engage in the discussions for and against legislative measures,” De Lima said, citing calls to reinstate the death penalty.

De Lima ended her message by saying life goes on. As she is set to turn a year older, the self-admitted “simpleng probinsyana” and “laing-cooking lola” mused that she misses the simple joys in life such as shopping for groceries.

De Lima also shared that she has three wishes for her birthday. She wishes for her 86-year-old ailing mother—whom she was able to visit 10 days ago upon approval of her furlough request—be able to fully recover so she can see the day when her daughter is vindicated.

Amid the prevailing injustices in the country, De Lima also wishes that her fellow defenders of human rights and democracy will not be disheartened, and finally, that there will be enlightenment for Filipinos.

“It is time to see with clear eyes all the abominations around us, to see the betrayals being committed by those who are supposed to defend us from within or from without; we’re being stunted by foreign interests. It’s time for our people to see that while there is still time to stop it,” she said.

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