Duterte on freeing De Lima: On what grounds?
DAVAO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday raised an eyebrow when asked to comment on the demand of a group of Asian leaders that the government release detained Sen. Leila de Lima and absolve her of drug-related charges.
“On what grounds?” he asked.
When told that representatives from the Women’s Caucus of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) had said that there was not enough evidence to try De Lima for alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade, Mr. Duterte declined to comment.
“I would not want to talk about it, the case is already in court,” he said.
On Thursday, CALD representatives from countries such as China and Malaysia branded the drug charges against De Lima as “politically motivated.”
“We call on the Philippine authorities to immediately release Senator De Lima by withdrawing the drug trafficking charges against her,” said Emily Lau, a former Hong Kong legislator.
Lau said it was apparent that De Lima’s detention was the result of her being a harsh critic of Mr. Duterte, particularly on the issue of extrajudicial killings.
“Clearly, this is a case of political persecution resulting from Senator De Lima’s staunch opposition to extrajudicial killings, and her continuing detention is a travesty of justice. At the very least, she should be allowed to post bail given the weakness of the evidence against her,” Lau said.
She said the charges would not stand even a hasty proceeding because these were based on “conflicting testimonies of criminals who were subsequently absolved of drug charges after they agreed to be prosecution witnesses.”
Jayanthi Balaguru, a Malaysian litigator, said De Lima’s continued detention was “an affront to human rights, rule of law and public accountability — fundamental principles that the Philippines prides itself on as a democratic country.”
De Lima, who has been in detention since Feb. 24, welcomed the statements of CALD representatives.
“Despite the relentless attacks and outright lies thrown against me by the evil Duterte regime to destroy my dignity and womanhood, I am grateful that many people have expressed and continued to vouch for my integrity,” De Lima said in a statement she issued on Friday. —Allan Nawal
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.