The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has renewed its call for the immediate and unconditional release of Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima, whom it cited as one of the 187 persecuted members of parliament (MPs) worldwide.
During its 140th assembly in Doha, Qatar last April 6-10, the IPU adopted a resolution urging the Philippine government to drop all politically-motivated charges against De Lima that were based on unsubstantiated statements of convicted felons.
“In the Philippines, the IPU remains concerned that, more than two years after her arrest, Senator Leila de Lima is still in detention despite the absence of any corroborated evidence to justify the charges against her,” its statement read.
“The IPU calls on the authorities to release her immediately and for the legal proceedings against her to be dropped,” it added.
The resolution was submitted by the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians during the 140th IPU Assembly participated in by IPU statutory bodies, including the Governing Council, Standing Committees, Committees on Middle East Questions, the Forum of Women Parliamentarians and the Forum of Young MPs.
According to the IPU human rights panel, 84 percent of the 187 persecuted MPs across the world are members of the opposition. In several countries with records of human rights violations against MPs, it noted that 25 percent are women.
Should the government insist on refusing to drop the charges against De Lima, the IPU said the Duterte administration, at the very least, should finally allow an IPU trial observer “to monitor the legality and fairness of any trial proceedings” involving her.
In October 2017, the IPU adopted its Human Rights Committee’s report and recommendation for IPU to send a trial observer to monitor De Lima’s legal proceedings to get an unbiased view of the trumped-up cases of illegal drug trade filed against her.
In a resolution adopted at the 139th IPU Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland last Oct. 18, the IPU reiterated its resolve to send an official mission to the Philippines to inquire into De Lima’s political persecution even as it called on the Senate to take a firm stand on her case. Such a stance did not sit well with some of De Lima’s colleagues, particularly Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who criticized the global organization for allegedly “meddling” on the Senator’s case.
After repeated calls from the IPU for her right to a fair trial, De Lima said she hopes that the government “can finally realize that the IPU is merely appealing to the sense of fairness and justice of the court to get a fair view of my case.”
It may be recalled that Australian lawyer Mark Trowell has sent a formal communication to the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 to allow him as a trial observer to attend the resumption of the hearing on De Lima’s case set last May 3.
However, the scheduled hearing was called off on short notice, and Trowell’s letter has remained unacted upon to date. IPU’s Committee on Human Rights President Fawzia Koofi (Afghanistan), along with MP Fazle Karim Chowdhury (Bangladesh) and Rogier Huzienga, IPU Human Rights programme manager, visited the Senator in detention last May 2017 to check on her condition and get first-hand information about her case.