Her inclusion in the 2016 Foreign Policy (FP) Top 100 Global Thinkers was enough for the office of Senator Leila de Lima to make a special announcement on the recognition. Under the "Challengers" category, the senator was cited for "standing up to an extremist leader" in the fight for human rights amid a bloody drug war.
Her inclusion in the list sounded like quite a feat, considering the stature of her fellow nominees, among them former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and outgoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. But at least one person is not buying it.
Senator Richard Gordon, who has been at odds with De Lima since the Senate conducted its probe into extrajudicial killings in the Duterte administration's war on drugs, had some questions about the recognition.
For the senator, the recognition – given by 46-year-old Foreign Policy magazine based in Washington DC – is questionable, as it was the first time he ever heard of it.
“Alam ko naman 'yung laro na 'yun. Siyempre, kung ako abogado ni De Lima, ganoon din gagawin ko. Bibigyan ko 'yan ng recognition abroad, (I know that game. Of course, if I am the lawyer of De Lima, I would also do the same. I will give her recognition abroad)," Gordon told reporters who asked for his comment on the FP list on Wednesday, December 14.
"Sino ba 'yan? Ngayon ko lang narinig 'yan (Who's that? It's the first time I heard of it)," he added, referring to FP.
Gordon said the recognition is apparently part of his colleague's strategy to “gain credibility.”
FP cited De Lima as one of the most prominent "challengers" of the status quo. Another Filipino lawmaker, Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman, is honored in the same category.
FP cited her work as chair of the Senate justice committee, specifically the investigation on the extrajudicial killings, "work that landed her firmly in Duterte’s "Duterte's crosshairs." She was ousted as committee chair after she presented a controversial witness at the inquiry – Edgar Matobato, who accused President Rodrigo Duterte of ordering the killing of crime suspects in Davao City when he was mayor.
Gordon, who replaced De Lima at the committee, authored the committee report clearing Duterte of liabilities in the rise of summary executions in the country.
Gordon was so puzzled by the recognition to De Lima that he suspected that the US government was behind it.
“Baka naman nakikialam na Amerikano dito dahil galit sila sa nangyayari. Alam mo we should not allow other countries to intervene. They can comment, pero ngayon nag-i-imbestiga bibigyan mo ng award, talagang nagfifish ka ng award to gain credibility,” he said.
(Maybe the Americans are already interfering because they're angry at what's happening. You know, we should not allow other countries to intervene. They can comment, but when there's an investigation and suddenly you give an award, you're really fishing for an award to gain credibility.)
Some people who heard Gordon wondered how someone of the senator's caliber, and one who is a member of the Senate committee on foreign relations, could not be aware of FP, which was founded in 1970 to provide an alternative view to US foreign policy during the Vietnam War.
How did De Lima respond to her critic? One can't say for sure if this was intended for her fellow senator but she tweeted this hours after media reported Gordon's doubts about the FP recognition:
I'm sorry there's no award for kowtowing to the President. #GlobalThinker — Leila de Lima (@AttyLeila) December 14, 2016
FP, which describes itself as a "trusted advisor for global leaders when the stakes are highest," has been running the list since 2005. Past honorees include US President Barack Obama, IMF chief Christine Lagarde, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Warren Buffet. – Camille Elemia/Rappler.com
(Editor's note: In an earlier version of this story, Ban Ki-moon was identified as former UN secretary-general. He is still secretary-general of the world body, with his term ending December 31, 2016.)