Palace refuses to accept De Lima’s new award, saying she is no ‘prisoner of conscience’


By Corina Oliquino i FilAm Star Correspondent

MANILA – Malacañang last July 29, downplayed Sen. Leila de Lima’s “Prize for Freedom” award, reiterating that De Lima is in jail for a criminal case.

The award by London-based group Liberal International (LI) recognized De Lima’s criticism of the Duterte Administration’s war on drugs.

The group, composed of liberal and progressive democratic parties, praised De Lima for her “sacrifice and contribution to the advancement of human rights.”

The award was announced last November, when the group said they would bestow De Lima, who they call a political prisoner, “the highest human rights honor.”

“Politicians from around the world voted to award Liberal International’s highest human rights honor – the Prize for Freedom – to imprisoned Philippines political prisoner, Sen. Leila de Lima,” LI said.

LI further described De Lima as a “prisoner of conscience” and one of the first individuals to be targeted by the Duterte Administration’s “campaign of violence.”

At the awarding ceremony on July 28, De Lima received the award in absentia and was represented by her son, Israel.

In a report by GMA News, in her written speech that her son read, De Lima said that her unrelenting battle against human rights abuses has taken her to where she is now – in prison.

“Therefore, this is a night of both thanksgiving and reaffirmation,” part of her speech reads.

De Lima also made special mention of three Philippine Presidents, whose convictions and guidance “kept her on the path of defending human rights and upholding the rule of law.

“These include: late President Corazon Aquino, the first Filipino leader to receive the LI award in 1987; Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for setting her on that path for appointing her as head of the Commission on Human Rights in 2008; and Benigno Aquino III,” the GMA News report read.

“One cannot claim to fight for human lives, while their hands are stained red with the blood of their victims… Anyone who suggests otherwise is no better than a wolf that pretends to be a shepherd, and delivers the flock to slaughter,” De Lima added, taking a swipe at President Duterte’s latest SONA statement about his war against illegal drugs.

De Lima is the second Filipino to receive the award after the late President Corazon Aquino.

No prisoner of conscience
The Palace, however downplayed the recognition, with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque claiming the Liberal Party of the Philippines, of which De Lima is a member, is involved with the LI.

“While we are certain that it is an honor for the lady senator to receive such an award from her party and ideological allies, we believe that the award she received cannot distract our people from the real issue,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said according to The Philippine Star.

“Sen. De Lima, we reiterate, is no prisoner of conscience. There is now a case against her before our local court and as respect to her right to due process, all legal processes are proceeding accordingly,” Roque added.

De Lima was arrested and jailed in February last year over the proliferation of illegal drugs in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) during her stint as Justice Secretary.

In the same month, the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court ordered the staunch Duterte critic to be detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center inside Camp Crame in Quezon City for her “supposed involvement in the illegal drug trade at the national penitentiary.”

In another report by ABS-CBN News, Duterte said earlier that the war on drugs will continue and will be as “relentless” and “chilling” as the day it started despite the protest of rights activists.

“Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives,” Duterte said in his third State of the Nation Address.