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Palayain na! Drop charges vs De Lima, HRW tells Duterte

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By: Xave Gregorio

Human Rights Watch (HRW) told the government of President Rodrigo Duterte to drop the drug charges against Senator Leila de Lima, which the international human rights organization called “politically motivated.”

HRW also appealed to Philippine politikos in Congress to call for the release of De Lima who has been detained in Camp Crame for nearly a year.

“Every day that Duterte keeps de Lima in jail, he undermines Philippine democracy,” said HRW deputy Asia director Phelim Kine in a statement released Wednesday (February 14).

“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,” Kine said.

“Instead, her prosecution has only raised her global stature and brought greater attention to Duterte’s demolition of the rule of law and respect for human rights,” he continued.

HRW also noted that Duterte “systematically disparaged, harassed, and intimidated those who have pursued accountability for drug war crimes domestically and internationally.”

Duterte previously hinted in a speech that he wanted to “destroy in public” a female government official who has been critical of his administration’s policies.

De Lima, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration and its drug war, was detained on Feb. 24 last year, after being served an arrest warrant for drug charges alleging her involvement in the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison.

The senator is facing three separate drug cases in different Muntinlupa courts filed by the Department of Justice.

Two judges have already inhibited from hearing De Lima’s drug cases, with Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero taking her hands off one of the senator’s cases, after being accused by De Lima’s lawyers of being biased against their client.

Muntinlupa RTC Branch 203 Judge Myra Quiambao has also inhibited from hearing De Lima’s case because of her close ties with the lead prosecutor.

The senator’s camp maintain that she has been illegally detained and has questioned the prosecution’s swapping of charges — revising the charge in the information against De Lima from illegal drug trading to conspiracy to trade drugs.

The Palace, however, urged the public to no longer listen to any of the senator’s statements, being a “polluted source” who has been accused by 13 witnesses, all convicted Bilibid inmates, to have a hand in the drug trade in the Bilibid prison.