MANILA - European Union parliamentarians who visited the Philippines this week have raised the alarm over what they claim was a "recent deterioration" of the human rights situation in the country.
"While welcoming the government's policy to battle the problem of illegal drugs, to alleviate poverty, to provide free access to university education and to invest in human capital in terms of health, including reproductive health as well as the peace processes, the delegation in frank and constructive discussions expressed its concern about the high number of extrajudicial killings in the context of the war against drugs and the possible extension of Martial Law," part of the EU statement read.
A 4-member delegation visited the Philippines this week to "gather information, to exchange views on issues of mutual interest and to get a real picture and a better understanding of the situation in the Philippines as well as to raise our concerns," EU said in a statement.
"As we are all members of a global community, living on the same planet, we note that in many countries, there is a clear backlash with regard to respect for human rights, something which requires global responsibility," Swedish parliamentarian Soraya Post, chair of the delegation, was quoted as saying.
Hungary’s Adam Kosa, Austria’s Josef Weidenholzer, and Denmark’s Rikke Karlsson were also part of the delegation.
They visited detained Sen. Leila de Lima in Camp Crame and "reiterated the principle of the presumption of innocence," the statement read.
The parliamentarians also called on Philippine authorities "to guarantee a fair trial to the Senator and let her fulfill a senator's duties including voting in the Senate."
De Lima, among Duterte's most vocal critics, has been detained since February for alleged drug links. She has denied the allegation, decrying the charges as "political persecution."
The European lawmakers also "expressed its strong concern" over bills pending in Congress to lower the age of criminal responsibility for children 9 years old from the current 15 and to restore the death penalty.
The House of Representatives in March approved on third and final reading a bill reimposing the death penalty for drug-related offenses.
The Senate has yet to scrutinize a similar bill pending in their chamber.
The delegation, they noted in the statement, had meetings with Foreign Affairs Secretary Cayetano, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello.
They also met with Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Senator Risa Hontiveros and Archbishop Socrates Villegas, as well as representatives from the Commission on Human Rights, civil society organisations, NGOs, journalists, bloggers and international organizations.
The European delegation "strongly encouraged" the Philippine government to identify cases of drug-related arrests where they could have an independent investigation mechanism, and to include this issue in the National Monitoring Mechanism "in order to put an end to impunity."
After visiting a government-built drug rehabilitation center, they also strongly encouraged the authorities to "continue developing prevention and rehabilitation mechanisms nationwide."
They also visited a center for juvenile offenders and "strongly called on the government to take due care of their fate and provide sufficient support."
PALACE SAYS CONCERNS 'SUFFICIENTLY ADDRESSED'
In response, Malacañang said that apart from the issue concerning detained De Lima, "we (government officials) have sufficiently addressed these."
"It’s important they check their facts and figures and listen to both sides, especially the people on the ground. The people show overwhelming support and appreciation," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.
Abella also cited Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia's recent statement that the business community is "quite happy" in Mindanao and, in fact, welcome the declaration of martial law in the region.
"The President has set an enabling environment for progress and peace, especially in Mindanao," he said.