Liberal International writes EU to seek help for De Lima

Ivy Jean Vibar, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 25 2017 05:18 PM

Senator Leila De Lima waves from a police van after appearing at a Muntinlupa court on drug charges in Muntinlupa, Metro Manila. Erik de Castro, Reuters

MANILA - The president of an international federation of liberal political parties has joined the fray in defending the cause of embattled Senator Leila de Lima, writing to the leadership of the European Union (EU) in the lawmaker’s behalf.

In a statement issued earlier this week, Liberal International (LI) extended its support to the Liberal Party of the Philippines (LPP), and said it is “deeply concerned” about De Lima’s arrest, as well as the “deteriorating human rights situation in general.”

“The Philippines, under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte is turning rapidly into an illiberal state, where there is no respect for the law whatsoever. I have asked written questions to HRVP (High Representative/Vice-President) [Federica] Mogherini in order to see what action the EU can take,” said Hans Van Baalen, LI’s president of honor.

Markus Leoning, the chair of LI’s human rights committee meanwhile said that Duterte should “respect and defend” Philippine laws, as well as the rights of his people.

He stressed that liberals “across the world” call for De Lima’s immediate release, especially as she is viewed as a “highly respected human rights activist fighting against corruption and the rule of law.”

The Philippines’ Liberal Party has condemned the arrest of De Lima as the result of a “political vendetta, and has no place in the justice system that upholds the rule of law.”

The lawmaker was detained at the Philippine National Police’s custodial center in Camp Crame. On Friday, she was presented to the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 after her arrest.

Commission on Human Rights chair Chito Gascon described her as "in high spirits" despite her incarceration.

Liberal International was founded in 1947, and stands for free and fair elections, social justice, tolerance, and free trade, among others.

On Thursday, Duterte's chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said karma was only catching up with the former justice chief. Duterte's allies believe the Aquino administration resorted to political persecution. 

Panelo said De Lima's impending arrest was different from the time when the then-justice chief effected the arrest of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2011. A Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge issued the arrest warrant against Arroyo after she was charged with electoral sabotage by the Commission Elections (Comelec).