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Palace slams ‘meddling’ by NY-based rights group

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque (File photo by JOAN BONDOC / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Malacañang on Wednesday scored the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) for calling on the government to drop the drug charges against Sen. Leila de Lima, saying the call was tantamount to “meddling” in the country’s internal affairs.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said HRW was “desperate to get some media mileage and public attention in the Philippines by beating a dead and decaying horse.”

De Lima is detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame.

“[It] is nothing but sheer meddling with our country’s domestic affairs. We condemn this continued interference not only because it misleads the public, but because it mocks the integrity of our justice system,” Roque said.

Prisoner of conscience

He said HRW was trying to portray De Lima as a prisoner of conscience and martyr for justice.

“She is none of these. She is facing charges of a criminal nature, plain and simple. Her arrest … strictly followed legal procedures,” Roque said.

The spokesperson said the legal process should be allowed to proceed since De Lima’s case had been filed at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.

The rights group had described De Lima’s case as “politically motivated.”

“President Duterte saw to the arrest of Senator De Lima a year ago to vilify her for her strident and principled opposition to his murderous drug war,” said Phelim Kine, HRW Asia deputy director.

Kine said that the senator’s prosecution had brought greater attention to Mr. Duterte’s demolition of the rule of law and respect for human rights.

Release De Lima

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, for his part, joined the clamor for the release of De Lima.

Trillanes on Wednesday spoke before De Lima’s supporters who gathered in the Senate to launch the “Month of Leila,” a monthlong commemoration of the senator’s yearlong detention.

Trillanes said he would deliver a privilege speech next week on the “terrible injustice” done to De Lima. He stressed that she was a victim of the Duterte administration’s “bastardized … justice system.”

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