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Leni slams political harassment of De Lima

“The arrest of Senator Leila de Lima is the latest move in a persistent campaign of political harassment being waged against a duly elected member of Congress,” Vice President Leni Robredo said in a statement. Office of the Vice President/Released

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Leila de Lima is a victim of political persecution for making a stand against extrajudicial killings associated with the administration’s war against illegal drugs, according to her partymate Vice President Leni Robredo.

“The arrest of Senator Leila de Lima is the latest move in a persistent campaign of political harassment being waged against a duly elected member of Congress,” Robredo said in a statement.

The Vice President said efforts to malign De Lima began soon after she launched an investigation into the issue of extrajudicial killings under the present administration.

“These efforts to smear Senator De Lima are strong indications that the charges against her arise from a political agenda and are not the result of an independent, unbiased legal process,” she said.

“With contradicting testimonies from criminals as basis of the case, they circumvented due process to fast-track the issuance of the arrest warrant,” she said.

Robredo, who has also been vocal against extrajudicial killings and other controversial government policies, called on the public to ensure that De Lima will have the right to a fair and unbiased trial.

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“Our history as a nation is marred by instances where government officials use the processes of criminal justice to cow, silence, and eliminate critics,” she said.

“We cannot, and we must not, stand by and let this happen again. We must make sure that our government institutions remain uncorrupted and independent of each other, particularly when it comes to checks and balances in pursuit of accountability,” Robredo said.

“We exhort the people to follow and scrutinize this case religiously. Let us fight for the right to speak dissent, which is the foundation of our strength as a free and democratic nation,” she said.

In March 2009, De Lima, then head of the Commission on Human Rights, began a public inquiry into the alleged death squads in Davao City during the term of President Duterte as city mayor.

In June 2012, De Lima, who had stepped down to become justice secretary, ordered the National Bureau of Investigation, which is part of her department, to launch a probe into the alleged death squads.

In August last year, De Lima, then chair of the Senate justice and human rights committee, launched public hearings on alleged extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s drug war.

Days later, Duterte allies in the Senate removed De Lima as committee head.

Sen. Richard Gordon, who replaced De Lima as chair of the Senate justice committee, said the panel found no evidence linking Duterte to the extrajudicial killings and to the Davao death squad.

Robredo said President Duterte should focus on the real problems of the nation, including poverty, and stop engaging in politicking and persecution of his political opponents.

In a speech during the commemoration of the 31st anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, Robredo called on Duterte to be “the leader you promised to be.”

“Please use your leadership to point the nation towards respect for rule of law, instead of disregard for it, to uphold the basic human rights enshrined in the Constitution, instead of encouraging its abuse,” the Vice President said.

“A senator and a staunch critic of the President was escorted into police custody. The message was loud and clear: anyone who dares speak dissent is not safe,” she said.

The arrest of De Lima was grossly premature, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said yesterday. – With Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy, Evelyn Macairan, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Eva Visperas


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