Press Release
June 14, 2021

IPU renews call for De Lima's release; Senator hopes for Senate leadership to respond positively

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the Senate leadership to express its support to the recent move by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) renewing its call for her immediate and unconditional release from unjust detention and the dropping of all trumped-up drug charges against her.

During its 207th session conducted virtually last May 25, the IPU Governing Council approved a nine-point recommendation by the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, including, among others, a call for De Lima's freedom and an appeal to ensure that she benefits from the Senate's move towards teleconferencing.

"The IPU has once again called for my release from unjust detention. I hope the Senate leadership responds positively to the IPU call by supporting it," she said in a statement released on Twitter.

IPU, the world's largest and oldest organization of different parliaments across the globe, said it is "deeply concerned that its appeals for Senator de Lima's immediate release and for charges to be dropped have gone unheeded and that she continues to be detained, more than four years after her arrest, in the absence of any serious evidence; considers that her continued detention and prosecution not only run counter to her basic human rights, but should also be seen as reprisals for her political activities and positions."

IPU stressed that there are "multiple, strong signs" that the steps taken against De Lima came in response to her vocal opposition to President Duterte's war on drugs, including her denunciation of his responsibility for extrajudicial killings.

"[IPU] points out in this regard the repeated violation of the principle of the presumption of innocence, the dubious choice of jurisdiction to present the accusations against her, the timing of the criminal proceedings, the amendment of the charges and the reliance on testimonies of convicted drug traffickers, who were either promised favourable treatment in return, subjected to physical intimidation in prison, or had an axe to grind against [De Lima]...," IPU noted.

IPU added the "use of testimonies of criminal law enforcement officers who had been involved in the alleged criminal events that underpinned the charges against Senator de Lima and had clear motives to resent her, and who had been kept in their official positions without facing disciplinary sanctions, let alone charges."

IPU further said that it "remains concerned that Senator de Lima has still not been able to benefit from the Senate's move towards teleconferencing, well over a year after COVID-19 led the Senate to allow for proceedings to take place virtually."

The global group of parliamentarians recalled that on the same day the Senate adopted a motion to allow teleconferencing in plenary and committee hearings last April 27, 2020, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that De Lima would not be allowed to take part in Senate online session because the Senate supposedly has no jurisdiction over her.

IPU maintains that a trial observer, at the very least, should be allowed to "continue to monitor and report on respect for fair-trial standards in the cases before Branches 205 and 256 of the Regional Trial Court in Muntinlupa City, in order to assess if and how existing concerns about the legality and fairness of the proceedings are properly reviewed."

It may be recalled that Australian lawyer Mark Trowell, a trial observer for IPU, flew to the Philippines several times to "assess whether the Senator is obtaining a fair and honest trial."

During its 206th session last Nov. 1-4, 2020, the IPU Governing Council also approved a nine-point recommendation by the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians which included a call for De Lima's freedom and request for an IPU trial observer to continue monitoring her legal proceedings.

Likewise, in its 140th assembly in Doha, Qatar on April 6-10, 2019, the IPU adopted a resolution urging the Philippine government to drop all politically-motivated charges against De Lima.

Before that assembly in Doha in 2019, a similar resolution was adopted at the conclusion of the 139th IPU Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland in Oct. 18, 2018, where the IPU expressed deep concerns over the human rights violations committed against the lady Senator.

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