Senate leaders slam EU interference in De Lima case
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senate leaders on Friday, March 17, slammed the European Parliament for meddling in the internal affairs of the Philippines, following its call for the "immediate release" of opposition Senator Leila de Lima.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the European Parliament should mind its own business and not impose on domestic affairs.
“It has no right to manage [Philippine] affairs, hence much more no right to micro-manage our country,” Pimentel said.
“Ahem, please mind your own business and don’t ever tell the Philippine Senate on who should chair any of its committees,” he added.
On Thursday, March 16, the parliament approved a resolution calling for De Lima’s release from jail over drug charges. It also cited the lady senator’s ouster as chair of the Senate committee on justice, days after presenting witness and self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato against President Rodrigo Duterte.
For the top Senate leader, this is a clear case of “crossing the line.”
“They should refrain from interfering in internal affairs by commenting on and worse, demanding the reversal of certain actions taken by sovereign nations,” Pimentel said.
“The EU Parliament has crossed the line. They should step back and do some soul searching,” added Pimentel, who was once De Lima’s client in an election protest case, which he eventually won.
Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III shared the same sentiment and called the EU parliament “arrogant” for calling for De Lima’s release.
“The European Parliament must be told that we are a democratic nation ruled by law. (Our) judicial processes (are) fully functioning,” Sotto said in a text message to reporters.
“[Its] action in demanding the release of Senator De Lima is a clear display of arrogance of power and a pure interference in our domestic affairs,” he said.
For Sotto, the Philippines should not take this sitting down, as he urged the Department of Foreign Affairs to file a note verbale to the EU.
“Our embassy in EU Capital must file a Note Verbale of Protest and explain in full the case of Senator Leila. The DFA must see to it it’s done. Baka akala nila pwede tayo basta apihin!” Sotto said. (They might think they can easily maltreat us.)
But for De Lima and her allies, the EU’s action is a welcome development.
In a handwritten letter dated March 17, De Lima thanked the parliament for their "collective initiative."
"I'm deeply heartened by the collective initiative undertaken by the European Parliament in calling for my immediate release," she said.
"This latest action from an international body is but a tangible proof that the rest of the world do care about what's happening in our country today. It's not at all an interference with our country's internal affairs, but rather an aggregate assertion of the universal values of truth, justice and humanity," De Lima added.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party, said the EU resolution is a reminder to the government that the world is “closely monitoring” the country.
He added the human rights issues in the country could have an adverse effect on Philippine-EU trade relations.
“Billions of dollars worth of trade and investments coming into the country are at risk of being lost and poverty and unemployment worsening because of the deteriorating human rights situation in the country,” Pangilinan said. – Rappler.com