MANILA - Pork-tainted senatorial candidate Jinggoy Estrada opposed Wednesday calls for the release of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima, saying her alleged crime was "worse."
Estrada, who is out on bail over multimillion-peso plunder and graft charges, said De Lima should not be released since she allegedly allowed the proliferation of illegal drugs during her time as justice chief.
"Bakit siya palalayain? Mas grabe 'yung ginawa niya. Pinakalat niya 'yung droga nung panahon niya. I'm against it," he told reporters.
(Why should she be released? She did much worse. She allowed the proliferation of drugs during her time.)
The former senator's remarks came as De Lima, a staunch administration critic, marked her second year in detention over drug charges, which she has denied and called political persecution.
Estrada also urged international groups calling for De Lima's release to stop meddling with the Philippine justice system.
"Yung mga ibang nagsasabi palayain siya, mga foreigners 'yun, sana 'wag na makikialam sa ating judicial process sa ating bansa,” he said.
(Foreign groups saying that she should be released should not be involved with our judicial process.)
It can be recalled that De Lima in 2013 headed the filing of charges against Estrada and former senators Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile for their alleged involvement in the diversion of millions of pesos of discretionary funds under the "pork barrel" scam.
All three former lawmakers are seeking a return to the Senate in the mid-term elections.
In 2014, the 3 were detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, where De Lima is also now detained.
All 3 have since been released and are all seeking a Senate comeback.
European parliamentarians urge De Lima release anew
Meanwhile, 18 members of the European Parliament have urged the European Commission to call for De Lima's release, saying charges against her "seem to have been fabricated and everything points out to her case being politically motivated."
In a letter to European Commission Vice President Federica Mogherini dated Feb. 24, which marks exactly two years since De Lima's arrest, the European lawmakers cited De Lima's plight in detention.
"... Ms De Lima's treatment in prison has not improved; her physician's recommendations continue to be ignored; she continues to be denied requests such as personal furlough and foreign visits; and she continues to be treated more strictly and harshly than most detainees," read the letter.
“We therefore urge you and the EEAS (European External Action Service) to issue a statement calling for her release, since a fair trial in today’s Philippines is impossible, and to reinforce pressure on the Philippine authorities,” they said.
Philippine police had earlier said De Lima was being treated well in detention, saying she had a 20.9-square meter cell, four times the United Nations standard for detainees, her own mini library, mini garden and an area for recreation and exercise.
European parliamentarians earlier made similar calls, condemning her arrest in March 2017 and visiting her in her cell in July 2017.
- report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News