EU Parliament approves call to free De Lima

MANILA, Philippines – The European Parliament adopted the call of a group of lawmakers to immediately free detained Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, the fiercest critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a resolution on Thursday, March 16, the European Parliament said it "calls for the immediate release of Senator Leila M. De Lima, and for her to be provided with adequate security whilst in detention."

European lawmakers also urged Philippine authorities "to ensure a fair trial, recalling the right to the presumption of innocence, to drop all politically motivated charges against her, and to end any further acts of harassment against her."

In the same resolution, which was among the "texts adopted" by the EU on Thursday, they said Philippine officials should "immediately halt ongoing proceedings to reinstate the death penalty."

The European Parliament adopted this resolution a day after proponents filed a draft on Wednesday, March 15.

This comes weeks after De Lima was arrested on February 24, as Duterte accuses her of protecting drug lords. 

This also comes days after the Philippine House of Representatives approved the death penalty bill on 3rd and final reading. Duterte wants to reinstate the death penalty to boost his war on drugs, which has killed at least 7,080 people since July 1, 2016 even without the capital punishment.

Reacting to the draft resolution filed on Wednesday, Philippine Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella on Thursday said that European lawmakers seem to "misunderstand" De Lima's case.  

"The lady is being charged with crime, not political persuasions, so I think they ought to respect that," Abella said.

DFA: 'Reliable information' needed

In a separate media briefing, Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo explained the Philippines' general approach in dealing with moves like the one made by EU lawmakers on Wednesday.

Manalo said that "if they let us," the Philippines would normally approach the proponents and give them the right information. 

Manalo said, "Sometimes, we've noticed, the information they get may not be the most accurate, and they get it from sources which they don't really divulge." 

"So it's important we give them the information which we think will help them, and of course it's their final decision, but we hope that if they're in possession of reliable information, it will help them make a good judgment and decision," the Philippines' top diplomat said.

In an earlier statement, this time before the United Nations Human Rights Council, the EU also reportedly said it "is seriously concerned about the human rights situation in the Philippines."

In a copy of the statement, provided to the media by Human Rights Watch, the EU criticized the "very high number of killings" in Duterte's war on drugs, as well as bills to reinstate the death penalty and lower the age of criminal liability to 9 years. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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