MANILA, Philippines – Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) were barred from visiting detained Senator Leila de Lima despite having complied with the 10-day visit notice.
Tian Chua and Charles Santiago, APHR delegates from the Malaysian Parliament, expressed disappointment over what happened.
Chua and Santiago, along with fellow APHR members Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr and Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, waited outside the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame for an hour but to no avail.
"I and my colleagues are very disappointed that our entry was not granted despite us giving an ample notice before the visit," Chua said.
Santiago said the event bolstered their beliefs that De Lima is "unjustifiably detained" over drug charges, which the senator maintains were fabricated. (READ: De Lima to Duterte, 'blind' followers in drug war: Your time will come)
"Seeking an appointment with a fellow legislator who has now been incarcerated and is in detention is something that we want to do, and not allowing us to visit her actually further affirms our beliefs that she is unjustifiably detained, otherwise the government doesn't have to worry about this," Santiago said.
"Our intention was to come here to express our solidarity with her, and as a fellow legislator in another ASEAN country, we believe that she's innocent and her persecution is part of the intimidation campaign against her, which violates her rights as a legislator," Chua also said.
If the government has nothing to hide, Chua said they should have been allowed to go in and visit the senator. (READ: ASEAN lawmakers: Free De Lima, end EJKs)
"We believe that if the authorities have nothing to hide, and if the authorities are doing things according to the principle of transparency, then we should not be denied from interacting and paying our visit to show our regards to her," he said.
The delegates submitted their request on September 6, more than the required 10-day notice before visiting the senator. Police present failed to give an exact reason for the delay in the issuance of the permit.
Last July, another foreign visitor was also denied entry. Liberal International (LI) president Juli Minoves was prevented from seeing De Lima due to an "administrative excuse." (READ: EU Parliament approves call to free De Lima) – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com