Detainee in Camp Crame

A woman most feared. The thought she might wave or speak a few words unnerves the most powerful men in the Philippines. She is, after all, honest and forthright. And by all indications . . . completely innocent.

By Wilfredo G. Villanueva

We compromise too much, we are too passive for our own good—if it doesn’t concern us, we have better things to do. (Maybe that is the cultural basis for Imee Marcos’s call to move on, but that is another story, although related.)

That is the background of this article.

Now throw your gaze towards a particular detainee in the custodial center of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame. Recall to mind that she is deprived of liberty on the testimony of drug lords—since given immunity—she once caught flatfooted with insane perks in New Bilibid Prison. No drugs were ever found in her possession, accused of aiding and abetting the drug trade. She has no unexplained wealth; she rents her residence, rides a Toyota Innova van.

She is illegally incarcerated, this according to legal experts, a position which is hardly refuted by the other side. True, she is not in a cramped cell, where inmates sleep standing up by turns. But she is in a cage nevertheless, quite comfortable by Philippine standards, but the rolled battle-ready barbed wire atop a 15-foot fence surrounding her quarters reminds her that she is stuck in a place where she doesn’t want to be. Closed circuit tv diminishes her—Big Brother is watching. The guest list is cleared by authorities. Not anyone can see her, visitors frisked, her jailers respectful but firm and uncompromising.

She is Senator Leila de Lima, considered as President Rodrigo Duterte’s prized trophy, slut-shamed beyond imagination, treated with extreme prejudice by the justice system she once headed in the administration of President Noynoy Aquino.

Her unerring aim at scalawags in government brought her to dire straits. She wounded a would-be king when he was a mayor of Davao, and when the king ascended the throne, there she is, swimming round and round in a goldfish bowl, subject to stares and ridicule, robbed of her mission to speak for country, a possible rubout victim 24/7 à la Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa.

As you scan her world, you have former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan on your mind. He was allowed to attend family affairs—twice—while the good senator of the realm is barred from attending her own son’s graduation from law school. The visual of police escorts holding down her arms so she cannot acknowledge supporters comes up. And the coughing by the same phalanx when she wanted to shout: “Mag-ingat sa M.A.D.!” That’s Marcos, Arroyo, Duterte. She is always on spot on issues, hence the guarding, coughing and no waving.

The Supreme Court in a media briefing has turned down her motion for reconsideration to its ruling that she cannot orally argue on her own behalf and that of the other minority senators who question the withdrawal of President Rodrigo Duterte from the International Criminal Court. “It needs Senate concurrence,” she says, “we have to be heard. The withdrawal was made whimsically and arbitrarily.”

But no. The highest court of the land cannot grant her the privilege to speak on this issue.

She is a flight risk, and therefore must be detained indefinitely. Never mind if she was in the United States when she learned of the impending warrant for her arrest, and her close friends said she should evade it, run for her life, but no, “This is my country, and I will defend myself from accusations that I received bribes from drug lords to be used for my electoral campaign.”

“Not like a senator who ducked for cover,” I said. She merely smiled, not wanting to dwell on other people’s choices.

Yesterday, August 27th, she celebrated her birthday on her 550th day in detention. Happy birthday, Ma’am. I wrote a poem for you:


That is the quality of a heroine,
Notice the lioness before it pounces on prey,
Laying still,
She does something to you,
like in a museum, when you see the likeness
of heroes,
You wonder how they feel,
Why they did what they did.

Why she does what she does,
My mind is short of intelligence
to comprehend such magnitude,
She’s a person, seated a few feet away
on the sofa in the custodial center,
She looks like a person,
but there’s something about her,
Quite unnerving in a way,
Yes, like what a lioness makes you feel,
She can make hamburger out of you.

Good that I’m not an enemy,
Spared from claws and fangs,
I can imagine what Duterte feels,
She can see right through him,
Playacting doesn’t move her,
Wrong is wrong, even if you have
Sixteen million rooting for you,
She will do what she does best,
Laying still before the pounce,
Wait, she has pounced,
and her prey is in the bushes hiding
from wounds:

“Oh, how it hurts,
how could she, a mere woman,
question me that way,
in my own city,
a city which adulates me,
Me, Duterte, can do no wrong,
Until she bearded me in my own den,
Bearded me in my own den.”

A lion shirks before a lioness,
the female is the hunter,
woe to the lion,
forever afraid of claws and fangs. 

Happy birthday, Senator Leila! May you receive vindication, your constant prayer, and ours, too.


18 Responses to “Detainee in Camp Crame”
  1. edgar lores says:

    Happy birthday, Senator De Lima!

    You are in the select company of men and women who lost their freedom, for a time, for fighting against the tyranny of men and false beliefs, and for fighting for the Truth and for Others.

  2. Ancient Mariner says:

    Happy birthday Senator.

  3. Mabuhay kayo, Madam Senator!! Happy birthday po!!

  4. gerverg1885 says:

    Happy birthday, Senator!!!

  5. LG says:

    Thank you Willie for reinforcing the Senator’s innocence. Long live Senator De Lima. Best wishes on your birthday Ma’am. God bless your spirit.

  6. Gemino H. Abad says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the SPIRIT of the OPPOSITION to murderous tyranny! “MAD” (Marcos, Arroyo, Duterte) IS DOOMED (together with “kamal/muks”/pettifogging justices in the Supreme Court).

  7. Ray Ciocon says:

    God bless Leila De Lima! Bountiful birthday blessings.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: