Global lawmakers' group eyes PH visit to check on De Lima case

MANILA, Philippines – A global organization of lawmakers passed a resolution calling for a visit to the Philippines to assess the condition of detained Senator Leila de Lima and the cases filed against her.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) on its closing day on Wednesday, April 5, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, adopted the resolution of its Committee on Human Rights, expressing "deep concern" over the senator's arrest and detention over alleged links to illegal drugs. De Lima is the fiercest critic of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The IPU, established in 1889, has 171 Member Parliaments, which "promote democracy, equality, human rights, development and peace." 

"The organization is calling for a mission to the Philippines where it is deeply concerned over the detention of Senator Leila de Lima and the accusations that she was involved in drug trafficking," the IPU said in a statement.

The IPU Committee on Human Rights cited the Philippines' ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), saying the government is "therefore bound to respect the right to fair trial" of De Lima.

"[The committee] decides to send a trial observer to the criminal proceedings should they take place," the resolution said.

"[It] wishes to receive further details on the prison conditions of Senator de Lima in the PNP Custodial Center," it added.

The organization also thanked Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, who attended the assembly, for "welcoming" a future visit by the delegation "in order to address the concerns and questions that have arisen in this case."

"[The committee] considers that it is crucial that this delegation meets with the relevant parliamentary, executive, and judicial authorities and Senator de Lima and her lawyers, along with any third party likely to assist it in its work," it added.

Pimentel confirmed inviting the IPU to visit the Philippines, but said he was not aware of the adopted resolution.

"What resolution is that? I'm not aware hence I cannot comment. But about their visit, yes I invited them to visit the Philippines," the Senate President said in a text message.

The IPU also expressed "deep concern" over the statements made by Duterte and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II about De Lima's case. (READ: De Lima's fate: Karma or political persecution?)

"The statements made by President Duterte and the Secretary of Justice flout the principle of the presumption of innocence, portraying Senator de Lima as guilty before legal proceedings have even started," the resolution said.

"Their statements, first and foremost those of the Head of State, forcibly carry great weight and may put undue pressure on the course of the criminal cases."

The IPU panel also wants to know the facts behind the complaints filed against De Lima before the Senate ethics committee, as well as "the procedure that will be followed."

It is not the first time that foreign lawmakers have expressed alarm over De Lima's case. In a resolution in March, the European Parliament called for "the immediate release of De Lima, and for her to be provided with adequate security whilst in detention."

Malacañang and allies of the President slammed this resolution, questioning the European Parliament's "interference" in Philippine internal affairs. (READ: Duterte says EU lawmakers 'naive' for wanting De Lima freed– Rappler.com