Local and international groups and personalities have condemned the intolerable restrictions imposed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) against opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima who was effectively placed under incommunicado detention for roughly two months since April 25.
In their separate messages, Senator Marilou McPhedran from Canada said the incommunicado detention of De Lima amid the COVID-19 pandemic violated local and international laws, while exiled Cambodian opposition leader Sochua claimed that it was part of the Philippine government’s effort to persecute the former justice secretary. Another Canadian lawmaker from the House of Commons, MP Anita Vandenbeld called for the immediate lifting of the restrictions.
“As a sister senator, I call on President Rodrigo Duterte to stop using the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to further silence and further try to intimidate the Senator… [T]he world is watching. President Duterte: Release Senator Leila de Lima.,” McPhedran stressed.
“Using COVID-19 as an excuse to keep Senator Leila de Lima in this form of solitary detention is unacceptable. These unlawful restrictions are clearly part of a political scenario to persecute Senator Leila de Lima. She deserves living conditions, working conditions as a human being, especially under COVID-19,” Sochua stated.
“I join the call to end the incommunicado detention of Senator Leila de Lima of the Philippines, consistent with international human rights norms and obligations,” Vandenbeld said in a Twitter post.
De Lima was effectively placed under incommunicado detention from late April until the first week of June 2020 as the PNP refused to allow any kind of visit to the Senator, whether by her immediate family, her lawyers, personal doctors, priests, or office staff.
In her Dispatch from Crame No. 820 published last June 10, De Lima announced that the strict no access, no visitors policy at the Custodial Center has been relaxed, by allowing scheduled visits, on specific days a week, but only from family members and selected staff, lawyers, personal doctors and spiritual advisers in limited numbers and time slots.
“No other visitors are allowed at this point,” De Lima confirmed. “I just hope that there will be gradual expansion in the restoration of visitation rights, both in terms of scope and duration.”
Prior to McPhedran Sochua, and Vandelbeld, globally prominent human rights groups have also also expressed deep concern over De Lima’s incommunicado detention, including Amnesty International (AI), the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a partnership between the World Organisation Against Torture and the International Federation of Human Rights), and the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).
Among the local leaders and personalities who earlier slammed De Lima’s incommunicado detention include Minority Senators Kiko Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros, and Minority leader Franklin Drilon. Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. also expressed sympathy for her detained colleague.
“We strongly urge the PNP that regular visitation rights be restored so that her loved ones can be in touch with her again and attend to her needs,” the three senators said in a statement.
It may be recalled that former senatorial candidate and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, along with priest Father Flavie Villanueva and De Lima’s Chief-of-Staff Atty. Fhillip Sawali, were barred from visiting the Senator in her detention quarters in Camp Crame last June 5.
“This just confirms the incommunicado detention of Sen. Leila. Hindi ito makatao. It’s a blatant violation of the Constitution and of international treaties which our government is legally bound to follow. Sen. Leila is innocent until proven guilty, and must be treated that way,” Diokno wrote in a Facebook post after the visit.
Aside from them, those who issued statements of support for De Lima amid her incommunicado detention include veteran journalists Philip Jr Lustre and Randy David, EveryWoman, Liberal Party, Committee for the Freedom of Leila M. de Lima, and TSM Silent No More, among others. (30)