Int’l group tells gov’t to end harassment of human-rights defenders
MANILA, Philippines — The international group Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) urged on Saturday the government to end all forms of harassment against human-rights defenders and journalists, as it welcomes Senator Leila De Lima as its newest member.
“We urge the Philippine government to end all harassment and politically motivated criminal charges against human-rights defenders, journalists, and members of the opposition who seek accountability for human-rights violations in the context of the ‘war on drugs,’” the APHR said in its statement.
“Sen. De Lima’s continued imprisonment undermines both democracy and the rule of law in the Philippines,” it added.
De Lima will mark her second year behind bars on February 24, after the government filed drug-related cases against her.
The senator has become part of the APHR “in recognition to her strong advocacy in promoting justice, human rights and democracy in the Philippines.”
APHR is a regional group of duly-elected legislators coming from ruling and opposition parties in the Asean region.
Following her inclusion, she would be joining other human-rights advocates such as APHR Chairperson Christopher Santiago of the Malaysian Parliament, Deputy Speaker Charles Chong of Singapore, Rohingya rights activist Shwe Maung of Myanmar, and Philippine lawmakers Reps. Teddy Baguilat, Tom Villarin and Walden Bello.
“As your newest member, it is an honor and a privilege to be fighting alongside principled leaders who never waver to uphold political freedom, promote democracy and protect human rights,” De Lima said in a statement.
“Rest assured that despite the relentless political persecution against me by a tyrannical regime, I remain committed in fulfilling the mandate given to me by our people and in working with you to promote lasting peace and progress throughout the region,” she added.
It may be recalled that in September 2017, members of APHR were prevented from visiting De Lima inside her detention cell in Camp Crame despite complying with all requirements needed by the police.
“The authorities’ decision to deny us access to visit Senator De Lima at the very last minute only furthers the public perception that the senator is a victim of political persecution by President Rodrigo Duterte,” Santiago, APHR Chairman, said.
Despite this, the group continued to denounce the arrest of De Lima as well as the “incessant political persecution that she is facing.” /jpv
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