Twenty-seven members of the UK Parliament have written Philippine Ambassador to the United Kingdom Antonio Lagdameo expressing concern over the plight of opposition Senator Leila de Lima, who recently entered her fifth year of detention.
In a letter dated March 1, the UK Parliamentarians added their voices to the growing list of international groups, leaders and personalities who reiterated their calls for the release of De Lima, who marked her fifth year in detention on Feb. 24 last year.
“As Senator De Lima enters the fifth year of her incarceration, we add to the calls made by many others for her immediate release and an end to the continuing erosion of democratic freedoms in the Philippines,” the parliamentarians wrote.
The signatories in the letter include Rt Hon. Dame Diana Johnson, MP (Chair, All Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group), Tonia Antoniazzi MP, Harriett Baldwin MP, Paul Blomfield MP, Tracy Brabin MP, Lyn Brown MP, and Dawn Butler MP, to name a few.
They said De Lima’s incarceration was a way for the Duterte regime to show the extent of action they were willing to do to anyone who dared oppose their policies.
“On February 24, 2017, shortly after initiating a Senate investigation into the extra-judicial killings in the Philippines, Senator Leila de Lima was suddenly arrested and jailed on non bailable charges for supposed links to drugs gangs. Four years later she is still being held in the Camp Crame detention center,” the officials said.
“Senator De Lima’s prosecution appears to have set the pattern for the silencing of President Duterte’s opponents, in which either trumped up criminal charges or false accusations of involvement in terrorism are brought against them.”
The UK Parliamentarians also condemned the human rights abuses happening under the Duterte regime, including the extrajudicial killings.
“President Duterte’s self-styled ‘war on drugs’ has seen an estimated 30,000 extra-judicial killings—along with the increased targeting of journalists and human rights defenders, and the undermining of judicial independence,” they said
Seventy-eight members of the Parliament of Maldives, political leaders, personalities and various groups from the United States, Europe, Africa, Canada and Australia are among the signatories of the Statement of Indignation that called for the immediate release of De Lima and the dropping of all drug charges against her. The statement was released on Feb. 24.