By Hannah Torregoza
A leading business newspaper has hailed detained Senator Leila de Lima as the Fourth Most Influential Woman of the Year 2019 for her bravery and determination to fight for human rights under the Duterte administration.
De Lima, a vocal critic of President Duterte and who is currently detained at the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) custodial center, was the only Filipino who made it to the Financial Times’ roster of different women from different countries who “stood out” for their bold stance on current issues and inspiring advocacies.
The senator, who has since denied and rejected the illegal drug charges filed against her by the government, said she was elated by the recognition she received from the London-based business newspaper’s Readers’ Women of 2019.
The senator, and her supporters, have since described the charges as fabricated and an attempt to silence critics of the President’s bloody war on drugs.
“De Lima had led a human rights investigation against Rodrigo Duterte into alleged extrajudicial killings that took place while he was mayor of Davao City,” the Financial Times said in describing the senator.
“Her handwritten dispatches from her cell are incisive missives and commentary on the issues the Philippines faces,” their description added.
Financial Times, one of the world’s leading news organization, also commended climate activist Greta Thunberg, businesswoman and campaigner Gina Miller, former governor of the National Bank of Ukraine Valeria Gontareva, and journalist Carrie Gracie.
FT also gave recognition to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, US presidential aspirant Sen. Elizabeth Warren, European Union Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, among others.
De Lima, along with 15 other women awardees, were lauded for breaking “new ground in 2019 or brought attention to some of the most important issues of our time, whether in their own community or at a national or international level.”
Despite her detention, De Lima continues to receive awards and accolades locally and in the international community. She was included in TIME Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in 2017, the Prize for Freedom award from the Liberal International in 2017, and one of the five “power women of Southeast Asia” by the Asian Correspondent in 2018.
De Lima formerly headed the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and investigated Duterte’s involvement in the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) which was suspected of the unexplained executions in Davao City where he was then the mayor.
She later on earned Duterte’s ire when, as a senator, initiated a Senate probe into the extrajudicial killings in the country.
The issue raised global awareness regarding the human rights violations committed against suspected drug offenders who were killed in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.