IPU calls for De Lima's release, dropping of charges

Raffy Cabristante, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 20 2023 12:59 PM | Updated as of Feb 20 2023 01:45 PM

Senator Leila De Lima is escorted by heavy guards as she attends her hearing at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court on June 22, 2018. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file
Senator Leila De Lima is escorted by heavy guards as she attends her hearing at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court on June 22, 2018. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA — The global organization of national parliaments has called on the Philippine government anew to drop the drugs-related charges against former Sen. Leila de Lima and move for her release.

In a decision made during its 170th session in Geneva, Switzerland from Jan. 21 to Feb. 2, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians urged Philippine authorities to "take the necessary action."

Citing its observations, the group said that De Lima's detention and the charges against her "came in response to her vocal opposition to the way in which the then President (Rodrigo) Duterte was waging a war on drugs, including her denunciation of his alleged responsibility for extrajudicial killings."

The IPU slammed the "inexplicable length of the criminal proceedings with no clear end in sight," as the cases against De Lima have been going on since 2017.

It expressed grave concern over De Lima remaining in detention six years after she was charged over her alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade, despite several key witnesses recanting their testimonies against her.

If the charges against De Lima wouldn't be dropped, the IPU said its trial observer would continue monitoring and reporting on the fair trial standards of the Regional Trial Court in Muntinlupa City in charge of the cases against the former senator.

This, the IPU said, would be to assess "if and how existing 
concerns about the legality and fairness of the proceedings are properly reviewed."

The IPU, which has 178 members that include the Philippines and 14 associated members, facilitates parliamentary diplomacy, and empowers parliaments and parliamentarians to promote peace, democracy and sustainable development around the world, it said on its website.

The IPU's call came a few weeks after the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights also urged the Philippine government to drop charges against De Lima and Walden Bello, another former lawmaker.

“We call on Southeast Asian authorities to stop abusing the legal system to stifle dissent and urge ASEAN to reprimand member states that continue to use lawfare to attack political opposition,” APHR Chairperson and Indonesia House of Representatives Member Mercy Barends said last January. 

In 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) had said it would be reviewing the cases against De Lima after some key witnesses, including former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) official Rafael Ragos, recanted their testimonies.

Then-Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the recantations must be formally made and cross-examined in court and not just presented to the press.

"Iyong mga retractions na 'yan, kailangan i-present yan sa court. Hindi naman sa media dapat pine-present lamang iyan," Guevarra said in a TeleRadyo interview last June.

Since 2017, De Lima has been detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City, where she survived a hostage-taking incident perpetrated by three Abu Sayyaf members who attempted to escape there in October.

De Lima lost in her reelection bid in May 2022.


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