On her 1,000th day of unjust and illegal detention, over 300 leaders, activists and organizations from across the world have collectively denounced Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima’s continued political persecution under the present administration.
In a Statement of Indignation, Vice President Leni Robredo and former President Benigno S. Aquino III led global and local leaders in urging the Duterte administration to drop all politically-motivated charges against De Lima and ensure her immediate release.
“We condemn the wrongful and indefinite imprisonment of Senator Leila M. de Lima whose cases are on protracted trial and are prosecuted with the use of dubious testimonies of inmates,” they said in signed statement.
“Given the dubiousness of the charges against Senator Leila M. de Lima and the indubitable violations of her rights, we urge the Government of the Philippines to immediately free Senator Leila M. de Lima, and to drop the charges against her,” they added.
Aside from Robredo and Aquino, other signatories include Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, Senators Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan, and former Sens. Paulo Benigno A. Aquino IV, Antonio Trillanes IV, Mar Roxas, Rene Saguisag, and Sergio Osmeña, to name some.
Joining them are Asian leaders and human rights defenders, such as renowned Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, Ambassador of Taiwan Maysing Yang and members of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, and Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats Women’s Caucus, among other organizations.
Members of the European Parliament, French Parliament, and Parliamentary Group Free Democrats, and North American leaders from the Liberal Party USA, Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, and Drug Policy Forum of Texas, also signed the indignation statement.
The signatories also include three members of Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), to wit: Margaret Cederfelt, MP (Sweden); Victor Bisono, MP (Dominican Republic) Chairperson of PGA International Council; and Petra Bayr, MP (Austria) Treasurer of PGA.
The global and local leaders, who described De Lima as “the staunchest critic of Duterte’s bloody ‘war on drugs’ and other anti-human rights policies,” dubbed the illegal drug trading charges against the former justice secretary as “trumped-up and politically motivated.”
Citing the findings by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the signatories pointed out that De Lima’s unjust and indefinite detention resulted from her personal convictions and public statements against human rights abuses in the Philippines.
“She launched the Senate investigation into the spate of extrajudicial killings in the ‘war on drugs’. Even in detention, she remains vocal in her political beliefs and advocacies,” they noted.
In addition, they also decried De Lima’s “unabated public vilification” by Mr. Duterte and his political allies and supporters who they claimed to have targeted the Senator as “an object of verbal assault, sexist tirade, false information and hate speech.”
“Senator Leila de Lima’s persecution – highlighted by the prolonged detention – is undeniably caused by her exercise of freedoms of thought, conscience, opinion and expression, and her right to participate in government affairs as a citizen and Senator,” said the signatories.
“[These] are all enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of which the Philippines is a State Party,” they added.
By granting De Lima’s freedom without delay, they maintained the Philippine government could demonstrate “to the Filipino people and the international community that the Philippines can still stand with the rest of the world in defense of freedom and human rights.” (30)