In recognition for her human rights advocacy, Liberal International (LI) has awarded Philippine Senator Leila De Lima its “highest human rights honor.”
In a statement released Tuesday, October 31, LI said the senator was chosen to become this year’s recipient of the Prize for Freedom award during its 199th Executive Committee meeting earlier this week in Johannesburg, South Africa.
This made De Lima—whom the organization described as a “political prisoner” and a critic of “authoritarian” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte—the second Filipino to receive the same award after the late Philippine President Corazon Aquino in 1987.
According to LI, the Prize for Freedom is awarded to “a well-known personality of liberal conviction who has made outstanding efforts for the defence of freedom and human rights.”
LI’s Human Rights Committee Chair Markus Löning, who met with the senator in detention in July this year, tagged her as a “flag-bearer” for human rights in the country and beyond
“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,” Löning said.
He added, “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.”
De Lima, a member of the Liberal Party (LP), has been highly critical of the Duterte administration’s “war on drugs” over its alleged human rights abuses and state-sanctioned killings.
She has been detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) custodial center in Quezon City since February over drug-related charges but her camp and supporters claimed the accusations against her were “politically-motivated and trumped-up.”
LI also noted that it was one of the first international organizations to campaign for the senator’s release.
In a statement, De Lima said she is “humbled and honored to be chosen as the recipient of this prestigious Human Rights Prize, which was also bestowed to former President and democracy icon Corazon Aquino.”
In 1987, LI has conferred Aquino the same recognition “for her world-renowned advocacy of democracy, peace, and the empowerment of women.”
De Lima then vowed to “continue opposing this murderous regime,” citing the recognition as her inspiration.
“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,” the senator added.
Her political party, likewise, hailed the international organization’s recognition of her advocacy.
“The prize is a testament that no walls or prison bars can weaken the spirit of any freedom fighter. Democratic change is a legitimate and rightful dream,” the LP said in a statement. n