Feisty former Justice Secretary says she is a ‘provinciana’ by heart
Who knew former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima can pull off a pair of blue jeans, leather boots, and of course, a yellow dress shirt with sleeves rolled up to her elbows? Believe it or not, one of government’s most feisty females dresses down becomingly from the staple suits she wore to her previous cabinet office, and the mandatory dark bomber jackets she donned for operations.
In fact, the 56-year-old lawyer, who first came into public consciousness as Commission of Human Rights chairman, not only looks comfortable in casual wear, but also more approachable and amiable.
Acknowledging that her previous posts required her to be tough, the senatorial candidate, related in this rare light-hearted interview that she is actually a “provinciana by heart.”
“I grew up in Iriga City,” related the daughter of Bicolano couple, former Comelec Commissioner Vicente de Lima and Norma Magistrado. “Not too many people know that I love to cook, especially Laing and Bicol Express, and if I can, I insist on doing my own marketing to this day.”
Eager to show the other side of the woman who fearlessly probed such cases as the Atimonan blood bath in 2013, Bilibid’s VIP prisoners in 2014 and the Iglesia ni Cristo alleged abductions in 2015 as Justice Secretary, De Lima acknowledged that her father raised her to be studious, focused, and principled, but that her mother “balanced her out” by exposing her to regular activities girls grew up with in their town.
“She made sure I took part in every extra-curricular activity you can think of in school,” laughed the doting and obedient daughter. “Name it, from dancing kundiman to ballet, being a majorette, and even ballet, she made me do it all, and I’m thankful she did—otherwise I would probably be too serious like most people think I am.”
De Lima further revealed that she engages in sports even now. “I play volleyball, and at the Justice Department, we always won inter-agency competitions. Ang hindi lang namin matalo mga prison guards… well, kasi nga mga prison guards sila!” she said a little cheekily as she let out another hearty laugh.
According to members of her campaign staff, it is this side to De Lima that voters across the country are pleasantly surprised to see during her sorties. Even though she is already a sure win—placing comfortably between fifth and seventh place across all the surveys conducted for the 12 senate seats—the first-time candidate finds it important to open up to the electorate to show them she is sincere in her bid to serve them, this time, as a legislator.
For De Lima, it is important for the Filipino people to know she is in touch with situations
they encounter in their daily lives, in order to assure them she will be able to author laws that will respond to their needs.
“It is not just a matter of knowing that I’m palaban and bumabanat,” she continued. “I also need to tell them that isa po akong ina at lola.”
Given her solid background in law, the eighth placer of the 1985 Bar Examinations, said she will of course zero in on reforms in the justice system, the most important of which are concrete moves to speed up court proceedings.
Moreover, being a mother of two sons—one of whom has autism—has made De Lima’s campaign for social justice personal, and in effect, more driven.
“The chance to help the marginalized became more personal because of my son, Israel.
[The older one Joshua is currently taking up Law]. We need to have laws that will grant poor families with special children sufficient access to opportunities, like what I have done for my son,” De Lima elaborated, sounding as generally does in the news all over again.
Stopping herself from getting too serious, the Liberal Party candidate simply said she will continue her advocacies on justice and the rule of law, anti-corruption and championing human rights if she is elected to the Senate.
Recognizing that the new path she has decided to take will be filled with challenges, De Lima gamely went back to her light-hearted sharing and concluded, “I’ll de-stress with my 13 dogs—four of them sleep happily with me at night.”