MANILA—A group of international parliamentarians has repeated its call for the release of detained Senator Leila de Lima, stressing that no strong evidence yet has been presented against her.
The 178-member Inter-Parliamentary Union made the call after its 138th Assembly and Related Meetings.
The Geneva-based group, which works closely with the United Nations, said it remains concerned over De Lima’s continued detention more than a year after her arrest, saying the senator should be released immediately and the legal proceedings against her aborted “unless serious evidence is rapidly forthcoming.”
It also reaffirmed its earlier mission report, which states that the charges against De Lima and her continued detention “were in response to her vocal opposition to President Duterte’s war on drugs, including her renunciation of his alleged responsibility for extrajudicial killings.”
De Lima, among the administration's most vocal critics, has been detained on drug charges she has decried as political persecution. Throughout her detention, she has continued to speak out about state affairs through handwritten dispatches.
A former Justice Secretary and Commission on Human Rights Chair, De Lima was arrested on February 24, 2017 due to her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade inside the national penitentiary.
She has denied the allegations, saying her incarceration was meant to silence her.
The senator had asked the Supreme Court to junk the charges against her, but the high court ruled against her. An appeal by the senator on the SC ruling is pending. The IPU said it trusts the SC to give full consideration to De Lima’s arguments.
The group also called on the Senate to ensure that De Lima participates in important Senate proceedings, even as it regrets the Senate’s failure to “take a firm stance in favor” of her.
IPU ‘IGNORANT’, SAYS DUTERTE’ S CHIEF LEGAL COUNSEL
Duterte’s chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said the group’s call “exposes its ignorance on the workings of the justice system in the Philippines.”
“IPU must educate itself before displaying its total lack of understanding of De Lima's case,” Panelo said in a statement.
“It must know that De Lima was accorded due process. A judge of a court of competent jurisdiction issued a warrant for her arrest after a judicious determination of the existence of a probable cause for a drug-related case filed against her. No one is above the law. Her being a senator cannot shield her from the majesty of the law.”
Panelo also slammed the IPU for putting to task the Senate to ensure De Lima’s continued participation in its proceedings, saying it is “an outright and outrageous intrusion into the internal affairs of the state, as well as an affront to our sovereignty.”
“The members of the IPU should instead focus on the problems of their countries in the matter of violation of human rights as well on the drug menace instead of poking their fingers on a subject they know nothing about,” Panelo added.