Leila de Lima

EU lawmakers reiterate call for De Lima’s release or lose GSP+ tariff perks

Jairo Bolledo

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EU lawmakers reiterate call for De Lima’s release or lose GSP+ tariff perks

FREED. In this file photo, former senator Leila de Lima walks out of the Muntinlupa Hall of Justice surrounded by police, after a hearing on drugs charges, on June 5, 2023.

Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

The EU lawmakers' call comes after UN experts also demanded the former senator's release

MANILA, Philippines – European Union (EU) lawmakers reiterated the call for former senator Leila de Lima’s release in a letter addressed to the Philippine government officials.

In a letter to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla, EU lawmakers from the subcommittee on human rights said the latest developments on De Lima’s case violate the Philippine government’s commitment to the international treaty on political rights.

“…We must bring to your attention that the recent developments in her case appear to contradict your commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which explicitly emphasizes that pre-trial detention, should not be the general rule,” the letter read.

The lawmakers also emphasized that De Lima’s case is essential in the Philippines’ trade perks from the EU: “We wish to highlight that this treaty is an essential part of the GSP+ (Generalized Scheme of Preferences)+ arrangement.”

The EU lawmakers who signed were:

  • Hannah Neumann, The Greens/European Free Alliance
  • Raphaël Glucksmann, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
  • Heidi Hautala, The Greens/ European Free Alliance
  • Miguel Urbán Crespo, The Left-GUE/NGL
  • Isabel Wiseler-Lima, European People’s Party

Under the GSP+, the Philippines enjoys EU tariff perks, which includes duty-free entry for 6,200 local products like fruits, animals, and vegetable fat, textiles, and even metals. 

Before Marcos officially became the president, EU officials urged him to address the war on drugs and De Lima’s detention – or risk losing the Philippines’ GSP+ perks. When the EU parliamentarians’ visited the country earlier this year, they said releasing De Lima would be a “strong sign” that the Philippines wants to continue enjoying the privileges.

By the end of the year, the GSP+ perks will expire and the Marcos administration will negotiate for its renewal.

In their letter, the EU lawmakers also said that the proceedings of De Lima’s case “have been marked by unnecessary delays, including prosecution witnesses frequently failed to appear during court hearings, and there have been changes in the composition of judges overseeing the case.”

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The lawmakers also backed the call of United Nations experts to conclude De Lima’s case and provide appropriate compensation and reparations. In June, various UN experts issued a statement calling for De Lima’s immediate release.

De Lima, a staunch critic of former president Rodrigo Duterte and his drug war, has been detained for over six years for at least three drug charges. The former senator was accused of enabling illegal drug trade in New Bilibid Prison to allegedly fund her 2016 senatorial campaign.

At present, two of the three drug charges have already been dismissed by the court. De Lima, however, remains in detention because she has one remaining drug charge. The bail petition in the said drug case has also been denied. – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.