House probe vs De Lima a ‘state-sanctioned intimidation’—rights group
International advocate group Human Rights Watch has denounced the congressional inquiry into the proliferation of drugs at the national penitentiary as a supposed government-backed attempt to intimidate Sen. Leila de Lima, President Rodrigo Duterte’s staunchest critic.
“The government’s targeting of de Lima now appears to be nothing less than state-sanctioned intimidation due solely to her support for human rights and courageous and outspoken opposition to government attempt to justify extrajudicial violence as a form of crime control,” Phelim Kine, HRW’s deputy director, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Her fellow legislators in both houses of Congress should decried this attempt to silence and intimidate her,” Kine added.
Expressing alarm over De Lima’s safety, Kine said the televised hearing in the House of Representatives, where the lady senator’s phone number was publicly disclosed, violated her privacy. De Lima said she was bombarded by over 2,000 hate and threatening messages after the release of her phone number, and that she had to temporarily leave her house due to security reasons.
“Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned about the implications to the security and safety of Senator de Lima posed by the public disclosure of her personal contact information and home address. We are aghast that the lawmakers presiding over the hearing, who are political allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, conducted it in a way that grossly violates the privacy and the rights of a sitting legislator,” Kine added.
HRW noted that De Lima has been the target of what it called a “relentless campaign of harassment, intimidation and vilification by the Duterte administration that appears designed to politically destroy her.”
“That smear campaign has occurred as de Lima has almost single-handedly challenged the government on the death toll of its ‘war on drugs’ and the legality of those more than 2,000 killings since July 1,” the group said.
Kine traced the President’s “enmity” toward De Lima from her stint at the Commission on Human Rights, where she investigated the notorious Davao Death Squad in Duterte’s hometown.
High-profile convicts and De Lima’s former subordinates testified against the senator in the House probe, linking her to illegal drug trade and alleging that she allowed the flow of contraband items in the Bilibid in exchange for payoffs for her campaign kitty.
De Lima, who has become the President’s staunchest critic, initiated the Senate probe on the spate of alleged extrajudicial killings in the country amid the administration’s bloody war on drugs.
However, she was ousted by majority of her colleagues as chair of the all-important Senate committee on justice and human rights, a move which Kine earlier criticized as a “craven attempt to derail accountability for the thousands of victims of this war on drugs.”
“The Senate is imperiling the Philippine public by covering up allegations of state-sanctioned murder rather than exposing them,” Kine said. “The Philippine Senate has a duty to promote accountability for the thousands of victims of this ‘war on drugs,’ rather than siding with those advocating summary killings as law enforcement.”
“Opposition to an impartial investigation into these killings only intensifies the spotlight on Duterte and his administration’s disregard for basic human rights protections for all Filipinos,” he added. RAM
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