Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has pressed anew the families and friends of political prisoners in the country to keep up the fight against abuses and oppression by exerting concerted efforts in pushing for their immediate release.
In a message read by her youngest brother, Vicente de Lima II, at the re-launching of human rights group Kapatid last June 15, De Lima expressed her solidarity with human rights advocates as well as the families and friends of political prisoners.
“Hanggang lahat tayo ay nakapiit sa kawalang hustisya at katarungan, ang ating isang paa ay nakabaon na sa lupa. Habang ako at ang humigit kumulang 536 pang bilanggong pulitikal ay nakakulong, kayo naman ay nakasadlak sa isang lipunang unti-unting sinisikil ang kalayaan,” she said.
“Our families, the families of victims of extra-judicial killings, civil society organizations, the people from the basic sectors, we are fighting back to restore that ‘strong vibrant democracy’ and we will not bow down. Not now. Not ever again,” she added.
Last June 15, Kapatid called for the immediate release of political prisoners on legal and humanitarian grounds, including those suffering from a medical condition and those who are long overdue for parole, pardon, or commutation of sentence.
Aside from working for the immediate release of all political prisoners, Kapatid was revived to promote basic rights and welfare, inclusive of legal assistance, to build support through constant information, and to reform laws that violate human rights.
Formed in 1978, Kapatid was first organized as a response to the crackdown of political activists during Martial Law. Its revival came as human rights group Karapatan noted more than 500 political prisoners under the Duterte administration.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, said the re-establishment of Kapatid after twenty years serves as an “ember of hope” to all political prisoners who were persecuted for openly expressing dissent and fighting for worthy causes and their families awaiting for their freedom.
“Isang patunay na sa kabila ng matinding pandarahas, ang apoy na pinasilab ng pagmamahal sa kapwa at bayan ay hindi mamamatay,” said the former justice secretary.
“Walang kasing hirap ang mapiit nang walang kasalanan. Sa mga panahong umaandap-andap na ang pag-asa at tila di na maaninag ang daan, kayo ang aming ilaw. Hindi po kayo tumitigil sa pagtatanggol sa karapatan ng bawat mamamayan na mabuhay nang malaya at may dignidad,” she added.
De Lima likewise sought the support of the families and friends of political prisoners in pressuring the government to pass into law the Human Rights Defenders Bill which the lady senator vowed to refile in the upcoming 18th Congress.
“I also see a glimmer of hope in the passage of the ‘Human Rights Defenders Protection Act’ at the House of Representatives on Third Reading, the Senate counterpart of which I will be refiling in the 18th Congress,” she noted.
“Magtulungan po tayo upang tuluyan po itong bigyang-pansin sa Senado at maging batas. Higit kailanman, ngayon po natin kailangan ng batas upang maprotektahan ang mga nagtatanggol sa karapatan ng mamamayan,” she added.
De Lima became the first prominent political prisoner in the country after she earned Mr. Duterte’s ire months after she initiated a Senate investigation into the unabated spate of extrajudicial and summary killings in the government’s brutal war on drugs.