De Lima: Defend the Work of the Opposition in Southeast Asian Parliaments
A well functioning parliament – one that promotes and protects the role of the opposition – is vital to democracy. No government can truly claim that it is for, of, and by the people unless there is a guarantee that the voice of the minority is also heard and that their work is valued in the lawmaking bodies of the land.
In time for the 40th general assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) in Bangkok from August 25 to 30, the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) have jointly issued a statement reminding fellow legislators in Southeast Asia and the rest of the public about the “importance of political opposition in the work of parliaments” and vowing to defend the right to an “opposition free from fear of reprisal that will strengthen the principle of checks and balances and provide a more inclusive decision-making in governance.
The statement is of utmost timing and relevance. Citing the dire situation of the political opposition in such countries as the Philippines and Cambodia, and throwing a spotlight on my unjust detention, CALD and APHR have managed to draw our attention to the fast declining state of the region’s democracy, punctuated by the persecution, harassment and other forms of attack against the political opposition in parliament.
In the Philippines, there have been efforts to undermine and sideline the opposition as evidenced by the filing of trumped-up charges, arrests, and detention, as in my case, on account of our legitimate exercise of duties as elected representatives of the people in the legislature. There are also downright threats and vilification against me and my colleagues in the minority. We view this trend, along with other forms of harassment such as the filing of the sedition case against opposition leaders, including Vice President Robredo, as nothing but a cog in their game plan to silence and decimate the democratic opposition. We view this project as being part of a bigger authoritarian experiment of Duterte and his allies.
I commend APHR and CALD – consistent champions of democracy in the region – for the timely reminder about the role of the opposition in parliament, and for their continued vow to defend democracy and political freedoms in this side of the world. I am and will be always standing by the ideals and principles that you espouse.
Mabuhay ang oposisyon sa mga lehislatura ng Timog Silangang Asya! Mabuhay ang demokrasya!