The FENIX Files – Senator Leila de Lima and Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman are included in this year’s Top 100 Global Thinkers list of the international magazine Foreign Policy, cited by the publication as one of the most prominent “challengers” of the status quo.
De Lima was honored for “standing up to an extremist leader” and for being a “steadfast advocate for the rule of law,” amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs that has seen hundreds of cases of extrajudicial killings.
The magazine cited her work as chair of the Senate justice committee, specifically the investigation on the extrajudicial killings – “work that landed her firmly in Duterte’s cross-hairs.”
De Lima was ousted as committee chair after presenting witness Edgar Matobato, at the Senate inquiry. Matobato, who has filed criminal and administrative charges against the President and 27 others, including Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and Philippine National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa, claimed that Duterte was behind the extrajudicial killings in Davao City when he was mayor.
Roman, meanwhile, “[redefined] fitness to govern,” citing her pioneering feat as the first transgender politician, in a country that has banned sex change and has seen transgenders become victims of homicide.
“Hailing from a political family – her parents previously held the congressional seat she won – Roman isn’t shy about her identity,” Foreign Policy wrote, quoting a BBC interview in which she said “gender only becomes an issue when you try to keep it a secret.”
De Lima and Roman were included under the “Challengers” category, which also included:
- Geraldine Blin, project director of the French Penitentiary Administration, France
- Feyisa Lilesa, Olympic runner, Ethiopia
- Collete Devlin, Diana King, and Kitty O’Kane, activists, UK
- Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bak and Barbara Nowacka, politicians, Poland
- Edit Schlaffer, founder, Women Without Borders, Austria
- Alexander Betts and Paul Collier, professors, UK
- Nathan Law, lawmaker, Hong Kong
- Haifa al-Hababi, architect, Saudi Arabia
- US Ambassador James Brewster and activist Deivis Ventura
- Jesse Morton, researcher, US
- Evan Mawarire, pastor, Zimbabwe
Foreign Policy cited them for “[showing] that agitation takes myriad forms,” standing up to what they believe is right.
The FP 100 list also includes big global names such as former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton; Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg; outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; London Mayor Sadiq Khan; and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.
The list was drawn up in the context of what the magazine called as “fear [surpassing] reason” in various global events, from the US elections to Brexit, which has left “many wondering who will handle the unprecedented crises that the world faces – the war in Syria, mass migration, climate change – and how.”
Individuals and groups included in this year’s Global Thinkers list “subverted traditional power structures to craft solutions to social, economic, and environmental problems.”
“The Global Thinkers honored here are proof that, as a society’s pillars falter, individuals step in to bear the weight,” the magazine said.
“In a moment of great uncertainty, they should serve as reminders that humanity has the power to hold leaders to account, to defy corrupt regimes, and to provide one another opportunity and solace when states cannot,” the magazine added.
The FP Global Thinkers list was first released by Foreign Policy magazine in 2005, and became an annual feature since 2010.
LEILA DE LIMA
For standing up to an extremist leader.
Since taking office in June, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has waged a brutal war on drugs. Thousands of alleged traffickers, dealers, and users have been executed by state forces or pro-government vigilantes. In response, Sen. Leila de Lima has been a steadfast advocate for the rule of law. As the chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, she spearheaded an investigation into the extrajudicial killings—work that landed her firmly in Duterte’s crosshairs. The president’s loyalists accused de Lima of being involved in the drug trade and ousted her as head of the investigation in September. That didn’t silence her, though. She called on the United Nations to examine the violence, arguing that Manila isn’t equipped “to serve complete justice to the victims.”(Photo credit: TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
After the criminal accusations, de Lima said, “I am willing to resign; I am willing to be shot in front of the president…. I am confident to prove him wrong. I will stand by my innocence, any time now and forever.”
In an apparent effort to discredit de Lima, opponents have accused her of taking bribes from drug dealers in a federal prison to bankroll campaign expenses.
For redefining fitness to govern.
The Philippines has banned people from changing their sex since 2001. There were 40 known homicides of transgender Filipinos between 2008 and 2015. Yet this year, Geraldine Roman was elected as the country’s first openly transgender politician. Hailing from a political family—her parents previously held the congressional seat she won—Roman isn’t shy about her identity. “Gender only becomes an issue when you try to keep it a secret,” she told the BBC. Roman has advocated improvements in health care, infrastructure, and other public services and urged lawmakers to pass an anti-discrimination bill that has been rejected for more than a decade. She wants to fight prejudice that extends “beyond gender,” she told Agence France-Presse, including “on the basis of…age, educational attainment, creed.” (Photo credit: TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
BuzzFeed reported earlier this year that call centers, of which the Philippines has the largest concentration worldwide, attract transgender workers because they can inhabit their true identities with international callers and face no backlash.
Roman had sex-reassignment surgery and adopted a new name in the 1990s, before the prohibition on both came into force.