WITH her hand raised to wave to the crowd, Filipino Senator Leila de Lima appeared on stage to campaign for re-election in the upcoming polls. Only, it wasn’t the opposition icon itself, but rather a life-size cut-out image displayed by its allies during the election campaign.
The main critic of the outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte, 62, has been locked up for more than five years in a high security prison in the capital’s main police camp. She is the most famous prisoner during Duterte’s turbulent six-year reign.
De Lima accused Duterte and his deputies of fabricating the no-bail drug charges that landed her in jail in February 2017 and effectively barred her from investigating the widespread murders of mostly impoverished suspects in as part of its anti-drug crackdown. Duterte insisted on her guilt, saying witnesses said she received payments from jailed drug lords.
“I cried every day for the first few weeks, not really out of self-pity but for my family and out of disbelief,” de Lima said Tuesday in his first court-authorized jail interview since his arrest. “I was isolated. There was no one but stray cats.
During her incarceration, she was granted only five court permissions to briefly leave custody and under heavy surveillance for medical examinations, to attend a party for her son after passing the bar exam and to console his sick 89-year-old mother. .
The prison walls and the desolation, however, failed to silence her, she said.
“I’m a fighter,” said the bespectacled former human rights commission chief and justice secretary, who greeted an AP reporter, her lawyer and staff with a smile and a smile. punching in prison while two policemen stood guard.
An Internet connection, television and radio sets, personal computers and cell phones are forbidden in her tiny cell, but she followed national and world news thanks to the two newspapers delivered to her each morning, from radio news broadcast somewhere in the prison. composed and press clippings contributed by his Senate staff.
This has allowed her to release more than 1,200 handwritten statements daily since her detention, mostly her critical reflections on Duterte’s governance and her reaction to breaking news like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ 2020 electoral triumph, which she hailed. as a victory for democracy over “fabricated populism”, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which she called an “act of madness” that put the world on edge.
She has introduced more than 600 Senate bills and resolutions from prison, many aimed at strengthening human rights and government accountability and reducing poverty.
Running in the May 9 elections under the main opposition bloc led by presidential candidate Leni Robredo, the incumbent vice president, de Lima sought permission from a lower court to participate in campaigns and debates online, and to allow journalists to interview him. .
But government prosecutors opposed the requests, saying they would “virtually make her a free man and promote her to a distinctive rank.”
The court allowed him to give interviews to the media in detention but without cameras, and to meet his campaign team in prison.
“I’m sad because I should be out there interacting with voters,” she said, adding that every time her name is called out at campaign rallies and people see her “standee” being carried center stage, she receives a “warm response from audiences.” — AP