Liberal International (LI) is giving its “highest human rights honor” to Senator Leila de Lima, whom the organization described as a “political prisoner” and a critic of “authoritarian” President Rodrigo Duterte.
In its news release Tuesday, the LI said De Lima was chosen to receive the Prize for Freedom during their 199th executive committee meeting in South Africa.
“Politicians from around the world voted to award Liberal International’s highest human rights honor – the Prize for Freedom – to imprisoned Philippines political prisoner, Senator Leila de Lima,” it said.
“Senator De Lima, a vocal and ardent critic [of] the Philippines authoritarian president Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called ‘war of drugs’, has been held in pre-trial detention on politically motivated charges since February 2017,” it added.
De Lima is presently detained at the Philippine National Police's (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City over allegations that she was involved in the illegal drug trade inside that national penitentiary during her stint as Justice secretary.
De Lima has repeatedly denied the charges against her, saying she is a victim of political persecution.
“Leila De Lima has been a flag-bearer for human rights in the Philippines and beyond, setting a shining example for other human rights defenders. Even from inside the prison she keeps fighting for the rule of law and the dignity of individuals. She should immediately be released from pre-trial detention,” the chairman of the LI's Human Rights Committee, Markus Löning, said.
Löning visited De Lima in her detention facility last July. During the same visit, LI president Juli Minoves was barred from entering the facility after authorities said they could not find the memo requesting for the official visit.
De Lima, a member of the former ruling Liberal Party (LP), is second Filipino to receive the Prize for Freedom, after former President Corazon Aquino in 1987.
Reacting to the recognition, De Lima said she is greatly humbled and grateful for being the recipient of the award.
“More than a recognition, I regard this award as an inspiration that strengthens my resolve to continue opposing this murderous regime, its outright disregard for human rights and trampling of human dignity to my last breath, especially because I am not alone in my fight,” De Lima said.
In its website, the LI said the Prize for Freedom is awarded to “to honor an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to the advancement of human rights and political freedoms.”
Previous recipients include the imprisoned Saudi liberal blogger Raif Badawi (2016); Helen Suzman (2002) for her work in South Africa; and Martin Lee (1996), leader of the Democratic Party of Hong Kong. — Kathrina Charmaine Alvarez/RSJ, GMA News