De Lima tops list of 5 political prisoners in Southeast Asia

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has decried the alarming trend of incarcerating government critics and opposition members in Southeast Asia as she vowed to continue fighting for justice and human rights across the world despite her continued unjust detention.

De Lima, a known human rights defender, topped Asian Correspondent’s list of five prominent Southeast Asian leaders and human rights defenders who are facing charges for defying the norm.

“Intimidating leaders who hold on to their independence and impartiality is a desperate tactic of some politicians to disarm dissent and eventually strengthen their political machinery,” she said.

“But as an advocate of justice, human rights, and the rule of law, we should not let any intimidation by power-thirsty officials to stop us from fighting for our causes,” she added.

Entitled “Democracy behind bars: A look at the cases of 5 jailed Asean leaders,” foreign news website Asian Correspondent cited five politically-persecuted leaders from the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia and Thailand in an article published last Jan. 26. (Cf.https://asiancorrespondent.com/2018/01/democracy-behind-bars-look-cases-5-jailed-asean-leaders/#vBtuPWw0UBlytqwK.97)

Under the list, De Lima joined the ranks of Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, Jakarta’s former governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Kem Sokha, and former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra–all of whom are facing politically-motivated charges.

The article tagged De Lima as President Duterte’s staunchest critic who has been detained on trumped-up illegal drug trading charges for initiating a Senate investigation into the alleged summary killings under the present administration, in 2016.

With the continued harassment the opposition members are subjected to, Asian Correspondent pointed out that it remained questionable whether Southeast Asian governments “have been sluggish in adopting the principles of freedom of speech and expression.”

“No one – not even the President of the country – has a license to smear the reputation and ruin the credibility of public officials simply because their opinions go against the views of majority,” she said.

The former justice secretary added that even in detention, the public can count on her to speak up against the murderous and undemocratic policies of the Duterte administration that resulted in the death of thousands.

“I will never tolerate any attempt to silence our democracy,” she concluded.

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