Malacañang to HRW: De Lima not a martyr for justice
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Wednesday, February 14, slammed as "interference" the call of Human Rights Watch (HRW) to release Senator Leila de Lima, and disputed the New York-based group's portrayal of the administration critic as a "martyr for justice."
"This recent call by the New York-based Human Rights Watch for the government to drop all charges against Senator Leila de Lima is nothing but sheer meddling with our country’s domestic affairs," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement. (READ: De Lima supporters call for her release after a year in jail)
"We condemn this continued interference not only because it misleads the public, but because it mocks the integrity of our justice system," he added.
Roque also said HRW should not portray De Lima as a political prisoner, insisting that her arrest was made by a fair justice system that assessed valid evidence of her guilt in supposedly facilitating drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison when she was still justice secretary.
The Department of Justice had tapped Bilibid convicts as state witnesses against De Lima.
"Senator De Lima is being portrayed as a prisoner of conscience, a so-called martyr for justice. She is none of these; she is facing charges of criminal nature, plain and simple," said Roque. (READ: [OPINION | Newspoint] The conscience of our time)
He called on the public to "allow the legal process to proceed accordingly." (READ: De Lima's 1st year in jail: 3 judges inhibit, one retires early)
Roque took a jab at the HRW, calling the group "desperate to get some media mileage" that it would harp on an issue as lifeless as a "dead and decaying horse."
"It appears we’re the only country that remains tolerant of their sad existence," he said.
On Wednesday, HRW urged the government to drop "politically-motivated" drug charges against De Lima. That same day, the senators' supporters called for her release from jail.
“President Duterte saw to the arrest of Senator de Lima a year ago to vilify her for her strident and principled opposition to his murderous drug war,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director.
He added that the Duterte administration's prosecution of the lady lawmaker has "only raised her global stature and brought greater attention to Duterte’s demolition of the rule of law and respect for human rights."
De Lima's surrender to police over drug charges filed against her by the Department of Justice will mark its first year on February 24.
In October 2017, the Supreme Court (SC) rejected De Lima's petition to nullify her arrest warrant.
De Lima is accused of conspiring with former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Jesus Bucayu, Bucayu’s former staff Wilfredo Elli, inmate Jaybee Sebastian, Ronnie Dayan, De Lima’s former security aide Joenel Sanchez, and a certain nephew Jad de Vera, to trade drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison to allegedly raise funds for her 2016 senatorial bid.
The accusation was first floated in public by Duterte, in a rant widely perceived as his response to De Lima's criticism of his controversial anti-illegal drugs campaign. – Rappler.com