Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has commended her fellow lawmakers from the Southeast Asian countries for defending the work of the political opposition in the Southeast Asian Parliaments, particularly Philippines, where opposition figures like her continue to be vilified, harassed and persecuted.
In an official statement, De Lima thanked the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) for issuing a joint resolution pressing the Philippine government to immediately release her and drop all politically-motivated charges against opposition members in Southeast Asia.
“I commend APHR and CALD – consistent champions of democracy in the region – for the timely reminder about the role of the opposition in parliament, and for their continued vow to defend democracy and political freedoms in this side of the world. I am and will be always standing by the ideals and principles that you espouse,” she said.
In a joint resolution adopted last Aug. 23, APHR and CALD urged the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), under the leadership of H.E. Chuan Leekpai, to “raise the issue of the worsening state of democracy and human rights in Southeast Asia in the AIPA General Assembly, especially in relation to the attacks faced by the political opposition in Cambodia and the Philippines.”
The 40th General Assembly by AIPA hosted by the Thai Parliament and with the theme “Advancing Parliamentary Partnership for Sustainable Community,” is scheduled from Aug. 25-30 in Bangkok, Thailand.
APHR and CALD also reminded fellow legislators in Southeast Asia and the public about the “importance of political opposition in the work of parliaments” even as they vowed to defend the right to an “opposition free from fear of reprisal” to provide a more inclusive decision-making in governance.
De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, said the joint resolution by APHR and CALD is “of utmost timing and relevance” amid the worsening human rights crisis and unprecedented attacks against opposition figures in the country and in Cambodia.
“Citing the dire situation of the political opposition in such countries as the Philippines and Cambodia, and throwing a spotlight on my unjust detention, CALD and APHR have managed to draw our attention to the fast declining state of the region’s democracy, punctuated by the persecution, harassment and other forms of attack against the political opposition in parliament,” she said.
In the Philippines, De Lima noted that there have been efforts to undermine and sideline the opposition as evidenced by the trumped-up charges filed against opposition members, her continued unjust detention, and the downright threats and vilification against the minority in their legitimate exercise of their duties in the government.
“We view this trend, along with other forms of harassment such as the filing of the sedition case against opposition leaders, including Vice President Robredo, as nothing but a cog in their game plan to silence and decimate the democratic opposition,” she said.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, maintained that “a well-functioning parliament”, which promotes and protects the role of the opposition, is vital to democracy.
“No government can truly claim that it is for, of, and by the people unless there is a guarantee that the voice of the minority is also heard and that their work is valued in the lawmaking bodies of the land,” she said.
The first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, De Lima continues to gain support from multilateral organizations and human rights advocates who have expressed serious concern over her illegal arrest and unjust detention over trumped-up drug charges.