Heed ASEAN lawmakers’ human rights report, De Lima tells gov’t


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima urged the government to heed the report of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) which warned against a “rapidly-growing human rights crisis” and the damage to the country’s democratic institutions.

Reechoing APHR’s 11-point recommendation contained in its 40-page report, De Lima said the Duterte administration should end all attacks on opposition lawmakers like her, including dropping politically-motivated criminal charges hurled against them.

“We have witnessed Duterte’s penchant for demonizing dissent and hurling threats against opposition lawmakers who defied his bizarre policies. He has stopped at nothing to harass us. This arrogance of power must end now,” she said.

“The Duterte administration should heed the recommendations of our fellow lawmakers in the region and prove that it is capable of valuing the rights of all lawmakers, regardless of their political affiliation and stand on important issues,” she added.

The report “In the Crosshairs of the Presidency: Attacks on Opposition Lawmakers in the Philippines” is based on a research carried out by APHR in Manila last January, as well as reports by civil society organisations, various United Nations (UN) bodies, human rights groups, and academic researches and credible media reports. (https://aseanmp.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/APHR-Philippines-In-the-crosshairs-of-the-Presidency.pdf)

In its 40-page report, APHR pointed out how the Duterte administration “has relied on open threats and unsubstantiated public accusations of criminal behaviour to intimidate and delegitimize opponents.”

“The attempts to undermine the opposition in the Philippines must end. This is crucial not only to stop the rapidly growing human rights crisis in the country, but also to avoid further damage to democratic institutions,” APHR said.

“APHR urges the Philippine government to immediately end all attacks on opposition lawmakers, and to drop all politically motivated criminal cases documented in this report,” it added.

The regional organization of lawmakers also pointed out that the “key tactic of President Duterte’s administration to silence criticism has been the use of trumped-up criminal charges against lawmakers.”

In the Senate alone, APHR noted that aside from De Lima who is currently facing trumped-up drug charges, her fellow opposition lawmakers Antonio Trillanes IV and Risa Hontiveros – both staunch critics of the government’s drug war – have also faced a slew of criminal charges under Duterte’s term.

“In Antonio Trillanes’ case, the President resurrected “rebellion” and “coup d’etat” cases against the Senator in September 2018 for which the Senator had been pardoned under a previous administration. Risa Hontiveros in 2017 faced “kidnapping”, “obstruction of justice” and “wiretapping” charges for her role in sheltering underage witnesses to the police murder of a 17-year-old boy,” APHR recalled.

De Lima, a member of APHR, said Duterte and his allies should prove that they are as tough as they claimed themselves to be by “having the courage to accept valid criticism and work hand-in-hand with opposition lawmakers in improving the plight of the Filipinos.”

Among the recommendations of APHR include advice for the government to immediately end all forms of politically-motivated attacks on opposition lawmakers, drop all fake charges against them, and ensure that the said lawmakers’ rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly are respected. The APHR also urged the government, among others, to duly investigate all threats against opposition lawmakers online and ensure that chairmanships and membership of Standing and Special Committees are distributed proportionally between the Majority and Minority in both Houses of Congress.

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