IN a joint resolution adopted on Thursday, March 16, the European (EU) Parliament called for the “immediate” release of Philippine Senator Leila De Lima, who was detained last month for drug-related charges.
De Lima, who is also a fierce critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, was arrested on February 24 for allegedly violating the Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Acknowledging Amnesty International’s (AI) claim that the De Lima is a “prisoner of conscience,” the EU noted that “there are serious concerns that the offences Senator De Lima has been charged with are almost entirely fabricated.”
The parliament also called on Philippine authorities “to ensure a fair trial, recalling the right to the presumption of innocence, to drop all politically motivated charges against her, and to end any further acts of harassment against her.”
Reacting to the resolution, Malacañang said that the European lawmakers “misunderstand” De Lima’s situation.
Philippine Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella clarified that De Lima is “being charged with crime, not political persuasions.”
Abella then advised the EU to “respect” the senator’s detention.
In a separate statement, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) remarked that the EU’s resolution on De Lima’s case “casts aspersion on Philippine legal processes, its judicial system and the guarantees enshrined in the Constitution to uphold and protect the rights of all individuals.”
Acting Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo said that the information the EU must have gotten “may not be the most accurate and they get it from sources which they don’t really divulge.”
He added, “So it’s important we give them the information which we think will help them, and of course it’s their final decision, but we hope that if they’re in possession of reliable information, it will help them make a good judgment and decision.”
EU on drug war, death penalty
In the same resolution, the EU stressed that it also “strongly condemns” the alleged spate of summary killings in connection with Duterte’s drug war.
The EU called on the Philippine government to “immediately carry out impartial and meaningful investigations into these extrajudicial killings and to prosecute and bring all perpetrators to justice.”
It also expressed “grave concern over credible reports to the effect that the Philippine police force is falsifying evidence to justify extrajudicial killings.”
More than 8,000 individuals have been reportedly killed since the campaign was launched in the Philippines last July. The Duterte administration has repeatedly denied that the killings were state-sanctioned.
The EU added that it is also “deeply alarmed” by the decision of the House of Representatives to reintroduce the death penalty, describing the capital punishment as “cruel” and “inhumane.”
On March 7, the House of Representatives approved House Bill (HB) Number 4727 during the and final reading, which seeks to punish perpetrators of drug-related crimes with either life imprisonment or death.