Special Report I: Galvanizing support for De Lima globally (First of Three Parts)

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Despite the continued vilification against her by the present administration this year, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has gained continued support from human rights defenders and activists from across the globe, as they condemned her continued political persecution and called for her immediate release from detention.

Other groups, organizations and publications also expressed their support for the Senator, who remains detained on trumped-up illegal drug charges fabricated by the Philippine government, by acknowledging her efforts to defend human rights at all costs through awards and citations.

“With the local and international support I am receiving from the global community of human rights advocates and activists and pro-democracy forces, I know that I will be vindicated in time and that I will never be alone in my fight for truth, justice and accountability,” she said.

One of ‘Women Sheroes’

De Lima’s year started by receiving a good news: She was named by Canada-based RINJ Foundation as one of the Women Sheroes of 2018 for her extraordinary fight to defend human rights and for boldly challenging the Duterte administration’s inhumane policies. A non-profit association of humanitarians listed with the United Nations, RINJ published its list last Jan. 1.

Support from Senate and House Minority

Both the Senate and House Minority, in separate resolutions in February 7 and 8, respectively, called on the Philippine government to follow the recommendations made by UN Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) to free De Lima.

Outpouring of support on her second year in detention

On her second year in unjust detention last Feb. 24, De Lima received outpouring of support from various local and international groups and individuals who rallied for her immediate release.

The foreign groups and individuals who issued statements of condemnation on the continued political persecution of De Lima include Canadian Parliamentarian Anita Vandenbeld, Liberal International Vice President Kiat Sittheeamorn, the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, members of the European Parliament, representatives from the Women’s Caucus of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, Amnesty Australia, and Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division Deputy Director Phelim Kine.

Likewise, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), International Union of Socialist Youth World Council, and FORUM-ASIA issued a joint statement urging the Duterte administration to drop the politically motivated charges against De Lima

The local personalities who expressed their solidarity with De Lima on her second year in detention, meanwhile, include, Vice President Leni Robredo, Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, Liberal Party President and Senator Francis Pangilinan, former Sen. Bam Aquino, and former Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, among others.

Launching of ‘Committee for the Freedom of Leila de Lima’

On the eve of De Lima’s 60th birthday on Aug. 26, a committee advocating for her unconditional freedom from unjust charges was launched. Called “Committee for the Freedom of Leila M. de Lima,” its core members include renown economist Prof. Solita Collas-Monsod, Law Dean Prof. Antonio La Vina, former presidential peace adviser Teresita “Ging” Deles, former De La Salle University president Bro. Armin Luistro and former Senator Rene Saguisag.

Global call to free De Lima on her 1,000th day in detention

In a statement published in a full-page newspaper ad in time for De Lima’s 1,000th day in unjust detention last Nov. 20, about 480 leaders, activists and groups worldwide assailed De Lima’s continued detention.

Among the signatories were Robredo, former President Benigno S. Aquino III, former and incumbent Senators belonging to the opposition, members of PGA, renowned Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, Ambassador of Taiwan Maysing Yang, and members of the European Parliament, French Parliament, and Parliamentary Group Free Democrats, to name some.

Among world’s most influential women

Leading business newspaper Financial Times recognized De Lima’s fight for human rights by naming her as one of the Most Influential Women of the Year 2019 from across the globe in December. De Lima is the only Filipino who made it to the roster.

US sanctions against De Lima’s persecutors

Last Dec. 11, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has unanimously approved Senate Resolution No. 142 which calls on the Philippine government to “immediately release Senator De Lima, drop all charges against her, remove restrictions on her personal and work conditions, and allow her to fully discharge her legislative mandate.”

The resolution, principally authored by Sens. Edward Markey and Marco Rubio, also calls on the US President to implement the sanctions such as entry ban and US asset freeze, provided in the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, to government officials responsible for orchestrating De Lima’s arrest and prolonged detention, among others.

Days after, on Dec. 20, US President Donald Trump signed into law the US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill which includes a provision banning the entry of Philippine government officials involved in De Lima’s wrongful detention. The said provision was introduced by US Senators Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy last Sept. 27 and adopted at the committee level. (30)

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