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Southeast Asian MPs call candidates in Philippine Election to pledge to release unjustly jailed Senator De Lima

27/04/2022

Southeast Asian MPs call candidates in Philippine Election to pledge to release unjustly jailed Senator De Lima

JAKARTA – Parliamentarians from Southeast Asia are launching a social media campaign addressed to Presidential Candidates in the upcoming 2022 Philippine national and local elections urging them to make a pledge to immediately and unconditionally drop all the trumped-up charges against Senator De Lima and release her from unjust detention, if elected.

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) invites netizens in the region and beyond to join in the campaign on Twitter and other social media platforms, which will use the hashtag #PledgeToFreeLeila, and will ask the presidential candidates to publicly pledge to have Senator De Lima’s immediate release a priority of their government if elected. APHR has designed a toolkit with orientation for those willing to join the campaign that can be accessed here.

People who value democracy in the Philippines and elsewhere are outraged at this gross miscarriage of justice. They can use social media to express their discontent and ask the next President to try and right the many wrongs done to Senator De Lima and release her as soon as they assume the presidency,” said Charles Santiago, Member of Parliament from Malaysia, and APHR Chairperson.

Philippine Senator Leila De Lima has now spent virtually the entirety of her six-year term as Senator unjustly imprisoned, simply for carrying out her duty as legislator to hold the authorities accountable for their crimes.

As a human rights lawyer and advocate, Senator De Lima has been one of the staunchest critics of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s infamous war on drugs, which has resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings throughout the country. She was arrested on 24 February 2017, shortly after she had launched a Senate investigation into these extrajudicial killings, and she has remained in detention ever since.

The trumped-up charges against De Lima are clearly politically-motivated. In November 2018, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that her imprisonment “lacks a legal basis” and is a form of reprisal due to her human rights work. On 17 February 2021, the Senator was acquitted in one of three cases against her, but her remaining two cases are ongoing.

There cannot be any doubt of Senator De Lima’s innocence as well as her commitment to democracy and human rights. Releasing her should be one of the first priorities of the next President if they want to restore a modicum of justice and rule of law in the government of the country,” said Santiago.

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ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) was founded in June 2013 with the objective of promoting democracy and human rights across Southeast Asia. Our founding members include many of the region's most progressive Members of Parliament (MPs), with a proven track record of human rights advocacy work.

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