MANILA, Philippines – Amnesty International (AI) on Friday, February 23, urged the Philippine government to immediately drop all charges against detained Senator Leila de Lima.
“The charges against Senator Leila de Lima are pure fiction as she has been singled out and targeted for nothing but her courageous opposition to President Rodrigo Duterte’s appalling policies,” James Gomez, AI’s Director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said.
“We consider her to be a prisoner of conscience and urge the authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally,” Gomez added.
De Lima was arrested on February 24, 2017, over drug charges filed against her by the Department of Justice (DOJ). (READ: De Lima: One year of living and surviving in prison)
One of the Duterte’s most outspoken critics, the senator has long called out the President Rodrigo Duterte's human rights record, particularly in relation to his controversial war on drugs.
As Commission on Human Rights chairperson in 2009, De Lima spearheaded an investigation into the killings allegedly carried out by the Davao Death Squad under then Mayor Duterte.
According to Gomez, the moves to silence critics than holding accountable those responsible for the high number of deaths reflects the administration’s priorities.
“It is a sad state of affairs when the Philippine government is more interested in jailing critics than preventing police from killing thousands of mainly poor people,” he said. “This is clearly an attempt to try and crush the spirit of a brave and consummate activist and send a clear warning to those who dare shine a light on the murderous actions of Duterte.”
Aside from De Lima, Duterte has threatened others that have spoken against government policies such as the anti-illegal drug campaign. Yet he and his allies tagged them as “destablizers.”
“It is becoming more and more dangerous in the Philippines to speak out against the Duterte government, and in particular its murderous drug policies,” Gomez said.
“It is high time for the international community, including the UN, to apply stronger pressure on the government and support an international investigation into the Philippines,” he added. – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.