DRUG charges filed against Philippines Senator Leila M. De Lima are “almost entirely fabricated”, according to a resolution passed by Parliament of the European Union on Thursday.
It calls for the immediate release of the senator, who has been a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his bloody war on drugs, which has claimed an estimated 8,000 lives to date. The EU also demanded an end to extrajudicial killings as part of the anti-drug campaign.
Last month, De Lima was arrested and detained on charges of drugs and corruption, with authorities claiming she received money from drug dealers inside the country’s prisons. If convicted, she faces up to 12 years in prison and expulsion from the Senate.
Referring to an investigation by human rights group Amnesty International, the European Parliament resolution declared De Lima a “prisoner of conscience” and expressed “serious concern” for her safety given “torture in places of detention that are not giving rise to inquiries.” It demands the government ensure her security in detention and her right to a fair trial.
De Lima was formally Philippines Human Rights Commission chairman and was named this month as a leading women human rights activist in Southeast Asia by Amnesty International.
During her time as human rights commissioner, De Lima led an investigation into extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in Davao where Duterte was then the mayor.
The EU resolution notes in November 2016, Duterte openly threatened to kill human rights defenders.
Last year, De Lima led a Senate probe into summary executions during the drug war and was subsequently ousted from her position as chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
In February 2017, several of De Lima’s fellow Liberal Party Senators who had voiced opposition to Duterte’s policies were similarly removed from Senate committee chairmanships.
The EU resolution claims following the Senate hearings, De Lima was “exposed to a torrent of harassment and intimidation from the authorities.”
The EU resolution also condemned the Philippines’ reinstatement of the death penalty for serious drug-related crimes, noting it was the first country in the region to have abolished capital punishment in 2007.
This week, Philippines Vice-President Leni Robredo sent a strong message to the United Nations in which she demanded the Duterte government treat drugs as the issue “it truly is – a complex public health issue.”
This was echoed by EU parliament, which declared “this fight must go hand in hand concomitantly with measures for prevention and detoxification” and encouraged “the government in its efforts to open new detoxification centres.”
An opposition lawmaker this week filed an impeachment complaint against Duterte for high crimes, betrayal of public trust and abuses of power.
Despite widespread international condemnation, the president has vowed to continue his war on drugs until the end of his term in 2022.