Duterte allies tell EU: Leave us alone
President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies on Friday came down hard on the European Parliament, slamming its call for the release of detained Sen. Leila de Lima as interference in the Philippines’ internal affairs.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, president of Mr. Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan party, warned the European Parliament against meddling in Philippine affairs, adding that it had “crossed the line.”
“The EU Parliament should know its place in the world. It has no right to manage Philippine affairs, hence much more no right to micromanage our country,” Pimentel said.
“Mind your own business,” he told the European Union legislators.
“The EU Parliament has crossed the line. They should step back and do some soul-searching,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to protest the resolution and explain to the European Parliament “in full” the drug charges filed against De Lima.
The DFA issued a statement, saying the resolution “casts aspersions on the Philippine legal processes, its judicial system and the constitutional guarantees on human rights.”
“While we recognize the independent standing of the European Parliament within the European Union system, resolutions that are crafted by its members must necessarily possess unimpeachable standards, given the sensitive topic of human rights,” the DFA said.
It also asked the international community to “refrain from influencing” the outcome of De Lima’s cases.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the European Parliament should not interfere with the Philippines’ judicial processes.
“They cannot dictate on the Philippine government on what to do with its constituents facing criminal charges nor can they interfere with the judicial processes of our country,” Panelo said in a statement.
Release De Lima
In a resolution adopted on March 16, the European Parliament called for the immediate release of De Lima, the highest profile critic of Mr. Duterte’s brutal war on drugs, who has been arrested and detained on drug charges.
De Lima has vehemently denied the charges, saying these have been “manufactured” by Mr. Duterte’s allies as retaliation for her 2009 investigation of summary executions of criminal suspects in Davao, when he was mayor of the city, and her launching an inquiry last year into thousands of extrajudicial killings in his crackdown on illegal drugs.
The EU lawmakers cited concerns that the charges against De Lima were “almost entirely fabricated” and noted that Amnesty International “regards Senator De Lima as a prisoner of conscience.”
They also noted De Lima’s investigation, as head of the Commission on Human Rights, of killings carried out by the so-called Davao Death Squad during Mr. Duterte’s tenure as mayor of Davao City and her removal from her position as chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights after she opened an inquiry into the extrajudicial killings in Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs last September.
The European Parliament also pointed out that De Lima was “exposed to a torrent of harassment and intimidation from the authorities” after her removal and that “these attacks have intensified over the last eight months.”
Citing “numerous claims of torture in places of detention” in the Philippines, the European Parliament called for adequate security for De Lima while in detention and urged Philippine authorities to ensure a fair trial for her, drop “all politically motivated charges” and “end any further acts of harassment against her.”
The EU lawmakers said they supported fighting drugs, but from the source, not the consumer.
They called on Manila to “prioritize” the fight against trafficking networks and drug barons over tracking down small-scale consumers.
More than 8,000 drug suspects have been killed by police and unknown assailants since Mr. Duterte launched the war on drugs after taking office at the end of June last year.
In its resolution, the European Parliament expressed grave concern over “credible reports” that the Philippine National Police is “falsifying evidence to justify extrajudicial killings” and that “overwhelmingly the urban poor are those being targeted” in Mr. Duterte’s campaign against drugs.
The parliament called on the European Union to support the establishment at the United Nations Human Rights Council of an independent international body to investigate the “unlawful killings” in Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs.
De Lima said she was “deeply heartened” by the European Parliament’s call for her release, describing the resolution as a “tangible proof that the rest of the world do care about what’s happening” in the Philippines.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the European Parliament’s resolution “should serve as a reminder that the international community is closely monitoring our political situation.”
He warned that the European Parliament’s assessment of the state of affairs in the Philippines “may affect our trade relations with the [European Union].” —WITH REPORTS FROM JOCELYN R. UY AND REUTERS
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