Well-guarded secret: Leila’s ma doesn’t know she’s in jail Featured

Well-guarded secret: Leila’s ma doesn’t know she’s in jail GOOD TIMES Sen. Leila de Lima (left) enjoys a family celebration with mom, Norma (4th from left, seated). With grandkids (right photo). —CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

There are no newspapers in her mother’s house and the TV is turned on to ‘safer’ channels
“She doesn’t know I’m in jail,” says Sen. Leila de Lima, referring to her mother Norma being unaware of her whereabouts these past three months.
It’s a well-guarded secret, says De Lima, adding that her siblings tell the 83-year-old matriarch that the senator is “schooling” abroad.That’s why, De Lima explains, there are no newspapers in her mother’s house, and people make sure the television is turned off, or its channels switched to “safer” programs, during the evening news.But though De Lima herself is almost totally cut off from the outside world—no TV, radio, computer, or phone—she has access to newspapers that her Senate staff delivers to her cell in Camp Crame every day.

She’s also kept abreast of developments by friends, strangers and colleagues in the Senate, and the legal profession who regularly visit her.She admits being totally surprised of her inclusion in the Time 100 list of the world’s most influential people. Her visitors bring copies of the magazine for her to autograph.Her children and grandchildren go to see her every Sunday, she says. She’s expecting them today, which happens to be Mother’s Day.

Just like a typical mother, De Lima wishes she’d always be there when her two sons need her around. These days, that would be difficult, given her situation.The consolation is, they’re grown up and can fend for themselves—eldest son Israel is 33, and Vincent, 30, is married with two kids. (De Lima’s marriage to lawyer Plaridel Bohol had been annulled.)She says that Israel, who was born with nonverbal autism, is fully aware of her incarceration.
Does she ever get depressed? There are nights, she says, when a tear would roll down her face. “Pero paminsan-minsan lang, hindi madalas (but only occasionally),” she points out. Busy She usually wakes up at 5:30 a.m., prays, and proceeds to read books, the latest being “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” She smiles knowingly when reminded of certain parallelisms between the Nazi regime and the dangerous direction being pursued by her nemesis.

Her staff arrives to bring her food because she refuses to eat the meals that jail management provides.Throughout the day, she keeps herself busy reading the papers, writing statements related to the news of the day, and watering the plants that were recently allowed to be brought in and placed at the sides of her cell. Visitors start arriving until visiting hours end at 5 p.m. And then it gets quiet, the long silence, night after night, enough to break one’s spirit—except that she’s one tough cookie, a trait she says her late father, former Comelec Commissioner Vicente de Lima, had passed on to her.

“My father taught me to be brave,” she says, “(and) never to be afraid to fight for what is right.” As she waves goodbye and nods, as if to say, “Hey, it’s fine, I’m hanging in here,” the surrounding walls that keep this woman locked up stand as mute witnesses to her fighting spirit. By: Pocholo Concepcion, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Last modified onMonday, 15 May 2017 12:57
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