Clooney case irks De Lima
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - March 12, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is not at all fascinated with international human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin-Clooney, wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney.

Neither is the justice chief pleased with Clooney’s pleadings with the United Nations to ask the Philippine government to release former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from detention, citing humanitarian reasons.

De Lima yesterday described the case against the Philippine government as a flamboyant gesture that reflects the paucity of Arroyo’s cries of political persecution.

Clooney filed the case before the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights last month, citing alleged inhuman treatment of Arroyo by the government.

While the government has yet to receive notice of the complaint, De Lima believes the allegations were based on wrong premises.

She said Clooney, who reportedly volunteered to lawyer for Arroyo, could be barking up the wrong tree when she filed the case against the executive department as the cases against the former president are pending with the courts.

The justice chief told Clooney that Arroyo’s detention is based on an order of the Sandiganbayan, which is handling the plunder charges against the former president in connection with the alleged misuse of P366 million ($8.2 million) funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) during her term.

De Lima said the lawyer needed to be enlightened about how the Philippine criminal justice system works.

“If she is charging the government of depriving Arroyo of her liberty, she must direct her petition to the judiciary, since the Aquino administration is not responsible for the fact that the judiciary does not subscribe to her claims that her continued detention is a result of political persecution. The judiciary remains independent of the executive, and it continues to decide cases not on the basis of politics, but on the legal merits of each case,” she said.

De Lima rebuffed Clooney for saying that the government violated Arroyo’s human rights because of her continued detention despite her suffering from an illness.

“Under international human rights standards, a commitment or detention order issued against an accused in accordance with a state’s independent judicial processes is recognized as a valid cause for restraining one’s liberty. There is no question that under no circumstances is Rep. Arroyo’s detention for the non-bailable crime of plunder violative of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” she said.

De Lima, who served as Commission on Human Rights chairman prior to her appointment as justice secretary, reminded Clooney that Arroyo must first exhaust all available domestic remedies – including filing a petition before the Supreme Court – before she could file a complaint with the UN. – With Rhodina Villanueva, Janvic Mateo, Paolo Romero, Robertzon Ramirez

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