ASEAN lawmakers: Free De Lima, drop charges vs opposition

Mara Cepeda
The ASEAN legislators also lament the sedition charges filed against Vice President Leni Robredo and key opposition figures in the Philippines

'FREE DE LIMA.' Jailed opposition Senator Leila de Lima attends her hearing at the Muntinlupa RTC Branch. File photo courtesy of De Lima's office

MANILA, Philippines – Asian legislators as well as members of liberal and democratic parties in the region are seeking the release of jailed opposition Senator Leila de Lima and the dropping of “politically motivated” charges against other opposition leaders.

The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) released a joint resolution on Friday, August 23, “expressing alarm at increasing attacks on the political opposition” of member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), particularly the Philippines and Cambodia.

The resolution was adopted as the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) holds its 40th General Assembly in Bangkok, Thailand from August 25 to 30, Celito Arlegue, CALD executive director, said in an email.

In the joint resolution, both organizations urged the AIPA to “work through all diplomatic channels” to convince the Philippine and Cambodian governments to “immediately” release De Lima and Cambodia opposition leader Kem Sokha, respectively. 

The Asian legislators likewise lamented the continued harassment faced by the political opposition in both countries, including the sedition charges filed against Philippine opposition leader and Vice President Leni Robredo as well as key members of the once-ruling Liberal Party. 

“[We] recognize that in the Philippines, several lawmakers who have opposed the President’s campaign against illegal drugs and other key government policies, have faced politically motivated criminal charges, harassment, threats, and intimidation as a result,” said APHR and CALD.

The ASEAN lawmakers called for the “dropping [of] all politically motivated charges against other opposition parliamentarians, members of civil society, human rights defenders, journalists, and others.” 

De Lima is one of the fiercest critics of President Rodrigo Duterte, who is waging a bloody war against illegal drugs. She has been detained since February 24, 2017 over multiple drug charges. De Lima is set to celebrate her 3rd birthday in jail on Tuesday, August 27. 

Sokha is the leader of the opposition movement in Cambodia. He was charged with treason and espionage in 2017 over an alleged conspiracy with unnamed foreigners, accusations Sokha said were trumped up by strongman premier Hun Sen. 

Read a full copy of APHR and CALD’s joint resolution below: 

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– Rappler.com