MANILA - A group of private individuals and former government officials on Monday launched a “committee” which seeks to drum up support for the release of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima.
The Committee for the Freedom of Leila M. De Lima “aims to be at the forefront of generating, strengthening and heightening efforts” for the detained senator’s freedom, according to former peace adviser Teresita Delez, one of the core members of the group.
“We aim to sustain her international recognition and solidify her status as a national and global leader for human rights and social justice in the Philippines,” Delez said during the launch of the committee in San Juan City.
The committee, which was launched on the eve of De Lima’s 60th birthday, counts as its core members Delez, former Sen. Rene Saguisag, professor Tony La Viña, former Education Secretary Armin Luistro, and economist Winnie Monsod.
De Lima was arrested in February 2017 on drug charges, which the the senator said was trumped up by the Duterte administration due to her fierce opposition to its core policies, including the bloody war on drugs.
De Lima’s brother, Vicente II, thanked the group for supporting his sister, who he said was a victim of “great injustice.”
Former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV believes the committee would be able to rejuvenate public interest in De Lima’s cases.
“They will see it (drug accusation) is bogus. No prosecution witness has been presented in the trials because they won’t last in the cross-examination,” Trillanes said.
‘ALLOW DE LIMA TO JOIN SENATE PROCEEDINGS’
In the same event, the group also announced that 8 former senators, namely Saguisag, Trillanes, Wigberto “Ka Bobby” Tanada Sr., Sergio “Serge” Osmena III, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, Mar Roxas, Francisco “Kit” Tatad, and Benigno S. Aquino III, are supporting a resolution seeking to allow De Lima to join Senate proceedings.
Senate Resolution No. 51, drafted by Sens. Panfilo Lacson and Franklin Drilon, seeks to allow De Lima to participate in several Senate proceedings via teleconferencing.
“While Senator De Lima is a mere detention prisoner enjoying the Constitutional presumption of innocence, as well as civil and political rights, the fact of her incarceration has prevented her from performing her duties to participate in the legislative process,” the former senators said in a statement.
“To allow Senator De Lima the full discharge of her role and duty as a parliamentarian is to pay respect to the mandate of more than 14 million Filipinos who voted for her into office.”
Trillanes said De Lima should be allowed to participate in Senate hearings via teleconferencing just as he did when he was detained, albeit under a friendlier political environment.
Hontiveros said it is encouraging that some majority senators have expressed support for the resolution, including Senate President Vicente Sotto III.