MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Liberal International (LI) Human Rights Chair Markus Leoning visited detained Senator Leila de Lima in her cell at Camp Crame on Saturday, July 22, but his colleague, the organization president, was left outside the gate of the custodial center.
LI President Juli Minoves was denied entry by custodial center officers on Saturday due to conflicts in paperwork.
“We notified on Monday, so that is more than 5 days in advance of my coming here. They have used an administrative excuse that they cannot find the letter,” said a frustrated Minoves on Saturday.
He added that he was sent to talk “from one officer to the next” to no avail.
“Minoves was not included in the approved list by Chief PNP,” said Philippine National Police (PNP) Spokesperson Dionardo Carlos in a text message to Rappler.
LI is a network of over a hundred liberal and democratic parties in the world.
“I believe she felt very ashamed that a high-ranking visitor from overseas was not allowed to see her,” Leoning told reporters after his visit to De Lima.
Minoves, the former foreign minister of Andorra, said he was “very disappointed” by how Saturday’s events panned out.
“I protest and I am very disappointed by this, but at the same time, people will realize here and abroad how arbitrary this detention is,” Minoves said. (READ: EU officials visit De Lima in jail)
It was the LI that sent a letter to the United Nations (UN) early July calling for the creation of an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate cases of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the country.
In the letter, LI called on President Rodrigo Duterte to “comply with his duty to protect the lives and the rights of the citizens of the Philippines and to direct the Philippine National Police to immediately end their campaign of extrajudicial executions.”
“This is why I’m not allowed to visit Senator De Lima today. This is the real reason. The other administrative issue is an excuse because we submitted in advance on Monday my request to visit Senator De Lima,” Minoves said.
Minoves added: “There should be no problem in a person expecting to see the senator especially as a former foreign administrator and former ambassador to the UN and president of an international organization. The regime is just indicting itself with this kind of shenanigans.”
Support for De Lima
Leoning, who got to see De Lima, said the senator “seemed to be in fairly good spirits.”
Leoning said De Lima should have been granted a legislative furlough to attend the joint session of Congress on Saturday to discuss Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao.
“She is an elected senator of this republic. She should be right now in the Senate and sitting in the Senate and the House and make her voice heard. And she would raise her voice against the extension of martial law that it is not needed,” Leoning said.
Leoning, who used to be human rights commissioner in Germany, said he would urge his country to pay attention to the “situation of democracy and rule of law in the Philippines, especially in the case of Senator De Lima.”
“I think there will be more international attention to this case, no question about that,” Leoning said. (READ: Foreign lawmakers visit PH to check on De Lima case)
PH and international community
Leoning said De Lima represents “a voice asking uncomfortable questions that is being silenced.”
“I am speaking up in behalf of Liberal International and in behalf of Human Rights community across the world. We believe that uncomfortable questions must be asked in a free country. It must be possible to express your opinion and to ask questions and it must be possible to stand up for human dignity and for the rights of each and everybody in the country to be protected,” Leoning said.
The LI officials’ trip to Camp Crame comes after lawmakers from the European Union also visited De Lima in jail on Wednesday, July 19.
Duterte is becoming known for hostile reactions to remarks from the international community. This is even entrenched in state policies, such as when the Philippines refused 250 million euros (P13.85 billion) in new grants from the EU, as the EU supposedly interferes with the internal policies of the Philippines.
In June, the Philippines complained to UN about special rapporteur Agnes Callamard for her supposedly”consistent biased prejudgment” about the Duterte administration’s war on drugs. The Philippines is yet to invite her for an official visit, though she had been here on an “academic visit” that did not sit well with Malacañang
This week, the US congress conducted a hearing into the alleged abuses of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
On Sunday, July 23, Malacañang defended the PNP’s decision and said the latter “has sufficiently explained its side on the issue.”
“There is no need to add political color to an issue which has none,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
“Our authorities are strictly following protocols in the PNP Custodial Center. It is unfortunate that the name of Mr Juli Minoves, President of Liberal International, was not included in the list of approved visitors scheduled to see Senator Leila de Lima on that day. The companions of Mr Minoves were allowed to enter the detention facility and see the good senator because their names were on the list,” he said.
In a statement on Sunday, the LP said if there was political color in the incident, “Is it incompetence then?”
“Is competence being used as an excuse for the government’s refusal to have him visit the senator and see for himself her condition and how she is treated?” it said.
The LP shared the view of Minoves that he was barred from visiting De Lima “because of his presentation before the United Nations where he cited the senator’s detention and condemned the continuing violation of fundamental human rights and the rule of law in the Philippines.”
The LP noted that Minovez submitted his formal letter to the government seeking to visit De Lima on July 17 or 5 days before the scheduled visit.
“This follows the protocols set by the Philippine National Police-National Custodial Center for such appointments. The police claimed to have lost the letter,” it said. – Rappler.com