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Free De Lima, EU lawmakers tell Duterte government

The Parliament of the European Union (EU) on Thursday, September 17, called for the immediate release of Senator Leila de Lima from jail, and the dismissal of the "politically motivated" cases against her.

De Lima, an opposition senator, is one of President Rodrigo Duterte's staunchest critics.

The EU Parliament voted on Thursday to adopt a resolution calling for action on the human rights situation in the Philippines. The text was adopted by 626 votes in favor, 7 against, and 52 abstentions.

In an email to Rappler, EU Parliament press officer Victor Almqvist confirmed that the resolution was adopted as a whole on Thursday.

The resolution condemned "all threats, harassment, intimidation, rape, and violence against those who seek to expose allegations of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations" in the Philippines.

It also mentioned "serious concerns that the offenses Senator [Leila] de Lima has been charged with are fabricated and politically motivated."

The EU Parliament then called on Philippine authorities to "drop all politically-motivated charges against Senator Leila de Lima, to release her while she awaits trial, to allow her to freely exercise her rights and duties as an elected representative, and to provide her with adequate security and sanitary conditions while in detention."

One of the most vocal critics of the drug war, De Lima has been in detention at Camp Crame in Quezon City since February 2017, when taunts and threats from Duterte came to a head with the filing of a slew of illegal drug charges based on testimonies from incarcerated drug convicts.

Before then, De Lima led a Senate probe into killings in the drug war, and previously in Davao City when Duterte was its mayor. As human rights chief years earlier, De Lima also probed the so-called "Davao death squad" killings linked to Duterte, earning the would-be President's ire.

The EU Parliament resolution also called for the dismissal of all charges against Rappler, its CEO Maria Ressa, and former Rappler journalist Reynaldo Santos Jr.

Besides urging greater vigilance over the human rights situation in the Philippines, the EU Parliament called on the European Commission to "immediately initiate the procedure which could lead to the temporary withdrawal" of the country's GSP+ preferences in trade with EU member states.

Countries comprising the EU were urged "to immediately suspend any financial assistance, training programs, weapons sales, and capacity-building programs with the Philippine security forces until the government ends its abusive'war on drugs,' and initiates meaningful investigations into alleged unlawful killings related to that campaign."

De Lima's allies at the Senate – Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, and Francis Pangilinan – in a statement on Sunday, September 20, welcomed the EU Parliament resolution.

"The resolution should also remind the current administration that the international community will not turn a blind eye and do nothing towards government's attacks against the fundamental freedoms of Filipinos, and the severe deterioration of the human rights situation in the country during the past four years," the opposition senators said.

"As long as Senator De Lima remains languishing in jail under such dubious charges and unjust circumstances, the current administration cannot truly claim that it is promoting justice and upholding the rule of law in the country," they added. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

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