Asian women leaders demand release of De Lima

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Senator Leila De Lima AFP FILE PHOTO

A group of Asian women leaders urged the Philippine government on Thursday to release Senator Leila de Lima and absolve her of the drug charges, which they branded as “politically motivated.”

“We call on the Philippine authorities to immediately release Senator De Lima by withdrawing the drug trafficking charges against her,” Emily Lau, a former legislator who was part of Hong Kong’s umbrella movement, said in a statement.

Representatives from the Women’s Caucus of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) who visited De Lima on Thursday at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City, said the senator was detained due to her staunch opposition to alleged extrajudicial killings in the country.

“Clearly, this is a case of political persecution resulting from Senator De Lima’s staunch opposition to extra-judicial killings, and her continuing detention is a travesty of justice. At the very least, she should be allowed to post bail given the weakness of the evidence against her,” Lau said.

CALD, the only alliance of liberal and democratic parties in Asia and has members from 12 countries across the region, also noted that charges against De Lima were based on “conflicting testimonies of criminals.”

“The charges do not stand even a cursory legal scrutiny, having been based on conflicting testimonies of criminals who were subsequently absolved of drug charges after they agreed to be prosecution witnesses,” Lau said.

The European Union (EU), Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Liberal International (LI) were also among the institutions that previously visited De Lima at the detention center.

The senator, who has been detained since February 24, earlier filed a petition in the Supreme Court to nullify the drug cases filed against her before three regional trial courts where she also previously filed a motion to quash.

READ: De Lima asks court to quash drugs raps

In these petitions, she argued that the cases against her should be dismissed due to “lack of jurisdiction, absence of evidence, and for being largely based on testimonies of ineligible witnesses.”

“We implore the courts to rule on the petitions of Senator De Lima in accordance with the right to fair and speedy trial, which is recognized in both the Philippine constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), where the Philippines is a contracting party,” said CALD Women’s Caucus Chair Jayanthi Balaguru, who is also a litigator in Malaysia.

“Every day that Senator De Lima spends in jail as a political prisoner is an affront to human rights, rule of law and public accountability—fundamental principles that the Philippines prides itself on as a democratic country,” she added.

The vice president of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD) and International Network of Liberal Women (INLW), Maysing Yang, also appealed to the Senate and the courts to grant De Lima’s request to participate in important legislative deliberations.

“As a duly elected senator of the Philippines, she should be afforded the right to fully carry out her legislative duties, including the right to cast her vote on legislative bills, especially since she is not yet convicted of any wrongdoing,” said Yang.

“Denying her this right is a great disservice to the more than 14 million Filipinos who put their trust in her in the last elections,” she added. JPV

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