MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Detained Senator Leila de Lima has received the highest human rights prize from Liberal International, a global federation of liberal political parties.
De Lima, member of the Liberal Party (LP), is the second Filipino recipient of the Prize for Freedom award, after former president Corazon Aquino in 1987.
According to a statement from the organization, global politicians voted this week to grant the award to De Lima during the 199th Executive Committee meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa. At least 100 liberals from 32 countries were registered to participate in the meeting, the statement added.
Liberal International was one of the first international organizations to campaign for De Lima’s release and has taken the case to the United Nations Human Rights Council and has also rallied parliamentarians across Europe.
Markus Löning, chairman of Liberal International’s Human Rights Committee, said that the senator has been a “flag-bearer” for human rights in the Philippines and beyond.
“Even from inside the prison she keeps fighting for the rule of law and the dignity of individuals. She should immediately be released from pre-trial detention,” Loning, who earlier met with De Lima in detention, said in a statement.
De Lima, the fiercest critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his bloody drug war, has been detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame since February over drug charges she claimed were fabricated. The Supreme Court earlier ruled against De Lima's petition to nullify her arrest warrant on questions of case jurisdiction, thereby keeping her in jail.
According to LI, the Prize for Freedom is awarded to “a well-known personality of liberal conviction who has made outstanding efforts for the defense of freedom and human rights.”
Previous recipients include the imprisoned Saudi liberal blogger Raif Badawi (2016), Helen Suzman (2002), and Martin Lee (1996). The award was first made in 1986.
In a statement, De Lima said she is “humbled and honored to be chosen as the recipient of this prestigious Human Rights Prize, which was also bestowed to former president and democracy icon Corazon Aquino.”
“More than a recognition, I regard this award as an inspiration that strengthens my resolve to continue opposing this murderous regime, its outright disregard for human rights and trampling of human dignity to my last breath, especially because I am not alone in my fight,” the senator said.
Her political party also celebrated her feat.
“The prize is a testament that no walls or prison bars can weaken the spirit of any freedom fighter. Democratic change is a legitimate and rightful dream," the LP said in a statement.
In some parts of the world that has gone insane – those that oppress, suppress and jail dissenters – the recognition given by the Liberal International is a reminder that while we celebrate, we should continue fighting injustice,” it added. – Rappler.com