By Raymund Antonio
Vice President Leni Robredo has called for the need for her fellow leaders who would unite and reach out to Filipinos as “defenders of human rights and law” amid these extraordinary times.
“It is time to speak up and work as one. The more we do, the more we are able to make the fight for human rights relevant. The real work begins by making our voices heard. When we allow the din of discordant voices to drown our message, we achieve nothing,” said Robredo, a lawyer.
“Beyond speaking truth to power, we must speak truth to the heart of every Filipino. We cannot do this by expecting the man or woman on the street to understand the language of those who have been studying and fighting for human rights for so long,” the Vice President said.
“We must use their language. We must see where they are coming from. We must feel their fears and their anger. We must understand their struggles. And we must all speak with one voice,” she added.
The Vice President made the call at the conferment of this year’s prestigious “Prize for Freedom” award by Liberal International to detained Sen. Leila de Lima held at the Novotel Hotel in Quezon City.
Robredo was the keynote speaker Saturday night during the awarding ceremony, where she hailed De Lima for her “depth in character and principle” in the fight for human rights and rule of law.
De Lima is the second Filipino, with her family receiving the award on her behalf from LI, a London-based world federation of liberal and progressive democratic parties, after former president Corazon Aquino was recognized in 1987.
The lady senator, the fiercest critic of President Duterte and his bloody anti-drug campaign, is at present detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame on drug-related charges which she vehemently denies.
“As we ponder our way forward, we find inspiration and drive in the example of Senator Leila, who has never faltered, despite and in spite of the shackles her enemies tried to place on her spirit,” Robredo said.
“She faces obstacles and difficulties that would make stronger men shudder, yet Senator Leila is not constrained and limited by them. She draws strength from her ordeal and finds ways to give voice to the people’s cries, prison and all,” she added.
Robredo was among De Lima’s party mates from the opposition Liberal Party who attended the event. Others present were LP president and Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon, and former president Benigno Aquino III.
In her remarks, the Vice President spoke about the importance of human rights and the rule of law, and how leaders must reach out to help Filipinos realize this.
“We are called on to be more creative and more innovative in our leadership; to continue pushing back against those determined to peddle the fiction that our individual well-being can only come by stripping away the lives and dignity of others,” Robredo said.
“For Senator Leila, that fight has also been clear as day, that even in detention, she has shaken ground and inspired fellow advocates of the law, here and abroad. We all have roles to play, and it is important that we know where we are placed and what we should do to win,” she added.