In this file photo, Sen. Leila de Lima upon arrival at Muntilupa Regional Trail Court to attend her hearing.
Joven Cagande, File photo
Senate minority: Heed UN body's call to free De Lima
( - February 8, 2019 - 11:32am

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate minority on Friday called on their colleagues to heed the recommendation of a United Nations body to free their Sen. Leila De Lima from detention.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Sens. Francis Pangilinan, Antonio Trillanes IV, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV and Risa Hontiveros filed Resolution No. 1019 urging the Senate to heed the call of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to release De Lima.

They noted that the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, last year, adopted an opinion that categorized De Lima’s pre-trial detention as "arbitrary" and that she should be released.

The Palace has long rejected calls to release De Lima, saying these are intrusions into the country's domestic affairs.

In October 2018, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo dismissed concerns raised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union over the cases against De Lima and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, anothet government critic.

"It is apparent this organization of foreign parliamentarians does not respect the ongoing proceedings being conducted by our courts of justice when it reached an incredible solution on the cases involving senators De Lima and Trillanes," Panelo said then.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, when he was Senate president, said an earlier call by the IPU said the group seemed unfamiliar with Philippine laws. "It's unfortunate that the IPU doesn't understand the Philippine Constitution. That's their problem not ours," Pimentel said then.

UN body: De Lima detention is over personal conviction

De Lima has been detained at the police headquarters in Quezon City since February 2017, over the government’s drug charges against her. She was initially detained on a illegal drug trading charge that has since been amended to a charge of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading.

It took more than a year for De Lima’s arraignment—to which she refused to enter a plea on all charges—to happen. She was arraigned on her last drug-related charge on February 1.

The UN body’s Opinion read: “The Working Group considers that Ms. De Lima’s deprivation of liberty resulted from her personal conviction and public statements regarding extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.”

It also held that De Lima’s detention is “arbitrary” and that “the appropriate remedy would be to release Ms. De Lima immediately and accord her an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.”

The Senate minority, in its latest resolution filed, stressed that the Philippines is a member of the UN and “should always endeavor to ‘fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.’”

The lawmakers also maintained that the Philippines must enact “its obligation to promote, protect and uphold the human rights of all regardless of sex, race, religion, or political beliefs and opinions.”

They called on their colleagues to “urge” the government and implement the recommendations of the UN TWAD to free De Lima.

The same UN panel also called on three of its rapporteurs to look into the alleged human rights violations against De Lima. — Kristine Joy Patag

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