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Human Rights Watch: Drop politically motivated charges vs De Lima

Sen. Leila De Lima may be arrested within days over drug charges. STAR/Geremy Pintolo, File     

MANILA, Philippines — An international human rights group slammed President Rodrigo Duterte's administration and said the drug charges against Sen. Leila De Lima was politically motivated.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the current administration “seems intent on using the courts to punish prominent critics of its murderous ‘war on drugs,’” which left over 7,000 people killed.

“The prosecution of Senator Leila de Lima is an act of political vindictiveness that debases the rule of law in the Philippines,” HRW Deputy Asia Director Phelim Kine said.

“The politically motivated case against de Lima shows how Duterte‘s ‘war on drugs’ threatens  not only the thousands of people targeted, but the criminal justice and political systems,” he said.

On Friday, the Department of Justice filed in court three separate drug raps against De Lima and seven others in connection with the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP). These charges may result in her arrest and detention without bail.

HRW cited that the government harassed and intimidated De Lima for her outspoken criticism of Duterte’s “war on drugs” and her demands for accountability for the thousands of Filipinos killed by police since the anti-drug campaign launched by the government.

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It added that De Lima’s probe when she was the chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights exposed a torrent of harassment and intimidation from the president and other government officials.

Apart from Duterte, HRW noted that pro-Duterte senators accused De Lima of being biased against the president which led to her ousting as the Senate panel chair.

Prior to Duterte’s term, De Lima has already been opposing his alleged human rights violations. Her investigation into alleged extrajudicial killings perpetrated by suspected “Davao Death Squad” members supposedly led by then mayor Duterte started when she was still a Commission on Commission on Human Rights chair and justice secretary.

Due to this, the HRW urged Philippine authorities to immediately drop the “political motivated charges” against De Lima.

“It’s more important than ever that concerned lawmakers and foreign governments step up to denounce the Duterte administration’s disregard for basic human rights,” Kine concluded.

De Lima might face her detention within days. She, however, remains unfazed and said she would not be silenced.

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