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Priest fires shot at Duterte over lawmaker's imprisonment

Jailed Philippine senator Leila de Lima says the truth will prevail in a note to media

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Priest fires shot at Duterte over lawmaker's imprisonment

Police officers escort Senator Leila de Lima into the Philippine National Police headquarters in Manila after her arrest at the Philippine Senate on Feb. 24, 2017. (Photo: Mike Taboy)

A Catholic priest has spoken out in support of opposition senator and former justice secretary Leila de Lima, who faces trial for what many say are trumped-up drugs charges brought by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Divine Word Father Flavie Villanueva criticized Duterte by saying a prophet was not honored in his hometown — words spoken by Jesus to the people in Nazareth when they questioned his authority to teach.

Father Villanueva heads the Kalinga Center, a group that delivers food packs to Manila’s homeless.

“God’s folly is certainly mightier than Duterte and his minions’ powers combined,” Father Villanueva told UCA News.

Father Villanueva’s comments came after De Lima sent a handwritten note from prison to the press.

The note contained a short reflection on the words of a Carmelite saint. “Truth suffers but never dies,” De Lima wrote, quoting St. Teresa of Avila.

De Lima, a staunch critic of Duterte and his war on drugs, was arrested in 2017 for alleged drug trafficking and has been in jail since after being refused bail.

On June 15, De Lima called for the case against her to be thrown out for lack of evidence.

She said in her note to the press that St. Teresa’s quote “sums up my sentiments amid the successive positive disclosures or developments in the bail hearings of my drug cases.”

De Lima said that like what the Carmelite saint said about the truth — she may suffer at present in jail but the truth about her case would never die.

“Truth, while sometimes slow to surface, is a most formidable weapon,” De Lima said.

De Lima says she has faced persecution for calling for an investigation into Duterte’s war on illegal drugs, saying it was a gross violation of human rights.

Duterte has kept attacking De Lima since she was imprisoned.

In 2019, he said De Lima engaged in documented “sexual intercourse” while collecting drug money from drug lords.

“On my oath as president, I’m telling you it is true. She [De Lima] did collect money … Ambitions can blind you,” Duterte said on national television.

Father Villanueva, who was himself accused of sedition earlier this year in connection with an alleged plot to oust Duterte, said De Lima was illegally detained and encouraged her to “let the truth stand.”

"Even if it has been manipulated, the truth — like water — will always find a way to be released.” 

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