60 foreign liberals renew call for De Lima’s freedom

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Some 60 lawmakers and human rights defenders from Liberal International (LI) have renewed their call for the Philippine government to release Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima from continued unjust detention and drop all fictitious charges against her.

In a signed manifesto of support read by LI President Dr. Juli Minoves in a press conference last July 28, the foreign liberals expressed their full support to the Senator, who is this year’s recipient of the federation’s prestigious “Prize for Freedom” Award.

“[W]e, the undersigned political leaders and human rights defenders from around the world, commemorate the awarding of the [LI] Prize for Freedom to our liberal colleague and extend our support to a prisoner of conscience,” LI said in the letter.

“We urge the government of Rodrigo Duterte to release Senator De Lima and drop the fictitious allegations made against her,” it added.

Minoves, who was accompanied by LI Deputy President Dr. Hakima el Haite, former Hong Kong Legislative Council Member Emily Lau, and Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) Secretary General Kiat Sittheeamorn, read the statement in a press conference held at Novotel Manila, Araneta Center, Quezon City last July 28.

The press conference took place hours before De Lima–who failed to grace the event due to her current situation–was formally conferred with the “highest human rights honor” by LI in the same venue.

Among the other signatories of the manifesto were Chairman of LI’s Human Rights Committee Markus Löning, Chair of CALD Women Caucus Jayanthi Balaguru, Liberal Democrats President Baroness Sai Brinton, Arab Liberal Foundation President Dr. Abyaba Hassan, European Parliament member Patricia Lalonde MEP, and Free Democratic Party leader Christian Lindner MP.

In an interview, Minoves confirmed that they are planning to formally send LI’s statement of support/letter to Mr. Duterte this coming September.

Meanwhile, to reaffirm their support for De Lima despite their absence in the event, Löning and Ireland politician John Thomas Alderdice took to social media to call for the release of the Senator.

“This weekend we awarded @SenLeiladeLima our Prize for Freedom. She has been fighting for #HumanRights for many years. She should be released from jail. #FreeLeilaNow,” Löning wrote.

“@SenLeiladeLima is a courageous politician, a leading global thinker and an inspiration for freedom-loving people across the world. I joined my liberal friends in signing this letter as part of a campaign for her freedom and as part of our global fight for freedom and democracy,” Alderdice noted.

Margaret de Vos van Steenwijk, president of the International Network of Liberal Women, reaffirmed their support to LI’s conferment of the award to De Lima whom she described as a “courageous senator who is wrongfully kept imprisoned for politically-motivated prosecution.”

LI, the world federation of liberal and progressive democratic parties, has previously denounced De Lima’s arrest as politically motivated. Last year, it urged the Duterte administration to immediately release her from continued unjust detention and allow her to fulfill her mandate as a sitting Senator of the Republic.

De Lima is the second Filipino who received the Freedom Prize, after then President Corazon Aquino in 1987. The latter was recognized “for her world-renowned advocacy of democracy, peace, and the empowerment of women.”

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