MANILA, Philippines – The camp of Senator Leila De Lima is not surprised by TIME’s inclusion of the senator in the magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People in the World.
The detained senator’s lead counsel, Filibon Tacardon, on Friday said, “Her continuing fight for human rights and against extra-judicial killings really deserves commendation not only locally but also internationally.”
Time described De Lima as President Rodrigo Duterte’s most vocal critic, who continued to speak against the chief executive despite his massive popularity.
Duterte is also included in the Time list.
An article about Duterte written by Cesar Gavaria, President of Colombia from 1990 to 1994, for Time criticized the Philippine President’s war on drugs campaign.
Gavaria said Duterte’s “approach is as ill considered as his grasp of history,” pointing to the fact that 11 million Jews were victimized by Adolf Hitler and not just three million as claimed by Duterte.
“His iron-fisted strategy alarms governments, human-rights organizations and faith-based groups while winning high approval ratings at home,” said Gavaria.
De Lima welcomes inclusion
Meanwhile, De Lima said she was “deeply humbled” for being recognized by the magazine, saying the “fight for human rights and justice are not popular causes as of the moment.”
“For many of our countrymen, it is more convenient to huddle up close to Malacañang and reap the benefits of being a sycophant, rather than take the road less travelled but be the victim of political persecution by a vengeful strongman,” she said in a statement released Friday.
She said she could have chosen to stay silent under the Duterte administration but she said “this was a betrayal of the country, the oppressed, the marginalized, the fight for justice, and her family.”
“I cannot for once contemplate capitulating to the dark side that this regime now embodies in exchange for a comfortable but opportunist life,” she said.
She also stressed the importance of international recognition on her fight for human rights “so the world can keep on watching.”
“This is why international recognition of what we fight for is important, because even as darkness surrounds us now, the world keeps watch and shines a light on us, until the time comes when we can finally bear our own torch once again and chase away the monster that enslaves us in evil,” she said.
Palace questions De Lima’s inclusion
But presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella questioned De Lima’s inclusion in the list, pointing out to Time the reason why she was jailed.
“TIME conveniently failed to clarify that she was jailed not for her criticisms against the administration but because an independent court found probable cause in support of the criminal charges against her for alleged violation of the law on illegal drugs,” Abella said in a statement.
“The fact remains that President Duterte is supported by majority of the Filipinos in his campaign against illegal hard drugs, crime and corruption,” Abella added, reacting, this time, to Duterte’s inclusion in the most influential list.
In an article written for Time about De Lima, former US ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers said, “It is a disturbing testament to the current solidarity among strongmen and the global surge in impunity that de Lima’s cause has not been more embraced.”
“And yet, even from prison, she continues to speak out against her President,” said Powers.