International monitoring body takes up cudgels for Leila

Rhodina Villanueva - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - After the European Parliament, an international monitoring organization for the rights of elected lawmakers accused the Philippine government of pursuing politically motivated criminal charges against Sen. Leila de Lima.

De Lima, a former justice secretary now detained on drug trafficking cases, is the most high profile critic of President Duterte’s anti-drug campaign deemed abusive of people’s rights.

In a report issued recently, the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) castigated the Philippines’ legal justification for De Lima’s February arrest, saying “there is serious reason to believe that she is targeted due to her outspoken criticism of the impact of the current government’s policies on human rights” in the country.

The IPU accused both Duterte and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II of making statements about De Lima’s prosecution that “flout the principle of the presumption of innocence… and may put undue pressure on the course of (De Lima’s) criminal cases.”

The IPU also expressed concern over De Lima’s safety while in detention and called on the government “to ensure full respect for Senator De Lima’s right to a fair trial.”

The IPU’s report comes just one day after Time magazine declared De Lima an icon against “the global surge in impunity” in its annual list of 100 most influential people.

The IPU said De Lima’s arrest followed a months-long government campaign of harassment and intimidation against her. That campaign was seen as a response to her demands for accountability for the thousands of Filipinos allegedly killed by police and unidentified “vigilantes.”

According to Human Rights Watch, many of the 3,271 death-squad-style extrajudicial killings the police attribute to “vigilantes” and drug gangs are a veneer to shield themselves and their agents from culpability in the summary executions.

HRW said the President’s abusive “war on drugs” and his vendetta against De Lima are now the subject of growing international criticisms.

Last March, European legislators called on the Philippines to immediately free De Lima, who also waged a decade-long bid to expose Duterte as the leader of death squads, on what they said were trumped up and politically motivated drug charges.

If convicted, De Lima faces 12 years to lifetime imprisonment. – With Marvin Sy            


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