Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima’s Chief-of-Staff Atty. Fhillip Sawali is confident that the Senator’s resolve to fight the Duterte regime’s murderous war on drugs that led to state-sponsored killings will not waver despite continued threats and reprisals against her.
During his presentation for the Anti-Extrajudicial Killing webinar of the University of the Philippines Institute of Human Rights (UP IHR) last Dec. 15, Sawali said that De Lima has been consistent and outspoken in opposing Duterte government’s anti-narcotics campaign “since Day 1” in office.
“Senator Leila de Lima is the ‘fightingest’ Philippine senator if we are talking about human rights,” Sawali said.
“And what stands out from the many, many fights for human rights that she has been waging is her unflinching stand against the extrajudicial killings under President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called ‘war on drugs.’ It is what I would like to call as her ‘anchor advocacy,’” he added.
Sawali noted that De Lima filed no less than 25 proposed Senate Resolutions (PSRs) related to the drug war killings during the 17th Congress alone, which include, among others, PSR No. 9 which prompted the first and only congressional inquiry into the spate of EJKs related to drug war.
It may be recalled that De Lima, who further earned the ire of Mr. Duterte because of her fight against EJKs, was later removed as Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The Senate hearings abruptly ended leading to a dubious report from the new Chair of the Committee, Sen. Richard Gordon.
“The threats and reprisals did not however weaken the resolve of Senator De Lima in her relentless pursuit for solutions to the rampant killings, including those that may come out of her legislative interventions and public advocacies, particularly through her bills and the statements, via her Dispatches from Crame, that she has been releasing to the media, or submitting to inter-government bodies or foreign governments,” Sawali stressed.
Known as the staunchest critic of the government’s war on drugs, De Lima has two versions of the Anti-EJK Bill. The first one is SBN 1197, which she filed during the 17th Congress, and was re-filed as SBN 371 during the current Congress.
The other version of her Anti-EJK bill, which she filed this 18th Congress, is based on the UP IHR draft. Logged as SBN 1842, it seeks to define and criminalize extrajudicial killings and related acts.
To further highlight De Lima’s fights against EJKs, Sawali, in his presentation, further cited several efforts by De Lima to put an end to EJKs in the country.
These include De Lima’s submission of a Dissent to the Report on the EJK Probe from the majority of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights that was filed in 2016 and her push for the immediate setting up of an international commission of inquiry at the level of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Aside from these, Sawali said that De Lima also urged the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to fast track its process that can hopefully lead to the formal investigation of those behind the EJKs and other crimes against humanity.
Recently, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that there is “reasonable basis” to believe that crimes against humanity were committed under this regime’s war on drugs.
Citing a study by IDEALS, Sawali noted that of the more than 400 cases of EJKs that they handled, only 32% underwent initial police investigation, and of this number, 98% went no farther than this first step, and for 58.5% of this set of cases, the families of EJK victims had not been given any information.
“But, despite these inadequacies – nay, absence – of effective parliamentary, legal and judicial remedies, Senator De Lima soldiers on. She is supportive of various efforts of different foreign governments to impose targeted sanctions against Filipino officials and their cohorts who are human rights violators,” Sawali concluded. (30)