MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima is turning 60 on Tuesday, August 27, and she will be celebrating her third birthday in detention with a small reunion with family, friends, and colleagues in the opposition on Sunday, August 25.
“It will be a simple gathering to express my gratitude to the people who have unfailingly vouched for my innocence and joined my fight for truth, justice and freedom since Day 1,” De Lima said in a statement dispatched from her cell at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City, where she has been detained since February 24, 2017.
Four priests will officiate holy mass on Sunday: Manuel Flores, Robert Reyes, Flavie Villanueva, and Albert Alejo.
Reyes and Villanueva will return on Tuesday to join Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr and priest Allan Castillo in officiating mass for De Lima and her family on her birthday.
The senator plans to have an “intimate lunch” with her family on that day, she said.
“I want it to be intimate and simple. It’s more like a family day, but of course sans my mom who is still currently recovering from her sickness, in Bicol, and with only a few friends present.”
De Lima got a two-day furlough from detention from August 14 to 15 to visit her ailing mother, Norma de Lima, at a hospital in Iriga City, Camarines Sur.
The courts handling her cases granted the furlough for humanitarian reasons, without opposition from the Department of Justice.
De Lima was at odds with Duterte even when he was Davao City mayor. During her term as chief of the Commission on Human Rights, De Lima pursued an investigation of then-mayor Duterte’s alleged death squads behind extrajudicial killings in the city.
In 2016, Duterte became president and De Lima, a senator. She began a legislative inquiry into killings in his war on drugs.
Duterte’s allies then held televised hearings of drug trafficking allegations against De Lima based on accounts of drug convicts who claimed to have dealt with her, through supposed emissaries, when she was justice secretary from 2010 to 2015.
De Lima denied the allegations, saying her incarceration is unjust. International human rights groups have hailed her achievements and called for her release from detention.
Her supporters will launch The Free Leila Committee on Monday, August 26, kicking off with a lecture series by the group #EveryWomanPH the following day. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.