By Genalyn D. Kabiling, Mario B. Casayuran, and Hannah L. Torregoza
The European Parliament should mind its own business and avoid meddling with the country’s internal affairs, including judicial processes, Malacañang and Senate officials said yesterday in the wake of the call for the release of Senator Leila de Lima, who is currently detained on drug charges.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III blasted the European Parliament for meddling in Philippine government affairs.
“The European Parliament has crossed the line,” he stressed.
“The European Parliament should know its place in the world. It has no right to manage Philippine affairs, hence much more to micromanage our country,” Pimentel said.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo accused the European lawmakers of “foreign intrusion” after calling for the release of De Lima.
“They cannot dictate on the Philippine government on what to do with its constituents facing criminal charges nor can they interfere with the judicial processes of our country,” Panelo said in a text message.
“That is foreign interference. They should mind their own business,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Panelo said the European lawmakers have no business meddling with the country’s domestic affairs.
“Iyon ang maliwanag na foreign intrusion. Kagaya ng sinabi mo, wala silang pakialam dito sa ginagawa natin sa ating bansa [That’s foreign intrusion. Like you said, they must not interfere with the affairs of our country],” Panelo said in a radio interview.
Like Pimentel and Panelo, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III also slammed the European Parliament for interference in Philippine affairs.
“The European Parliament must be told that we are a democratic nation ruled by law. Judicial processes fully functioning,” Sotto said in a message sent to reporters
“Its action in demanding the release of Sen. De Lima is a clear display of arrogance of power and a pure interference in our domestic affairs,” he added.
European Parliament resolution
The European Parliament recently adopted a resolution seeking the release of De Lima and the dismissal of the politically motivated charges against her.
The European lawmakers also condemned the high number of extrajudicial killings linked to the government’s war on illegal drugs and called on the Duterte government to probe these murders and bring the culprits to justice.
They also expressed alarm over the Congress’ move to restore death penalty in the Philippines.
Earlier, Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the European parliament should respect the country’s judicial system, including the detention of De Lima. Abella informed the foreign lawmakers that the case against De Lima was not politically motivated.
Pimentel said Parliaments are free to air their sentiments on various issues worth commenting on from their own point of view “but they should refrain from interference in internal affairs by commenting on and worse demanding of reversal of certain actions taken by sovereign nations.”
Pimentel asked the European Parliament to step back and do some soul searching.
Legal procedures followed
Abella reiterated that De Lima’s arrest strictly followed legal procedures and was not political in nature.
“The Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court – which is both independent and competent – then found probable cause which led to the issuance of a warrant for the incumbent senator’s arrest,” he said in a text message.
The Palace official also added that the Duterte administration continues to follow due process and holds itself accountable for its actions but denied its hand on the alleged extrajudicial killings.
De Lima said she was “deeply heartened” at the resolution released by the European Parliament supporting calls for the dismissal of the drug charges filed against her.
In another handwritten letter released by her Senate staff, De Lima said the European Parliament’s joint resolution is proof that other countries do care what is happening to the Philippines.
“I’m deeply heartened by the collective initiative undertaken by the European Parliament in calling for my immediate release, condemning the rising incidence of EJKs (extrajudicial killings) and pushing for an independent international investigation into such unlawful killings and other violations under the Duterte regime’s brutal war on drugs,” De Lima said in her note.
“This latest action from an international body (following similar statements from other reputable global organizations) is but a tangible proof that the rest of the world do care about what’s happening in our country today,” the senator said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, a member of the Senate minority bloc, said that from the outset she always believed that De Lima’s incarceration was based on “uncorroborated accusations.”
“It is naked political persecution. It is an attack on our democratic values and the rule of law,” she added
“I am glad that the EU Parliament has added its strong voice to the growing call to defend democracy and oppose the blatant abuse of our justice system for political persecution,” she stressed.
“I hope that the international community will continue to extend its solidarity to all democracy-loving Filipinos,” she added. (With reports from Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos and Elena L. Aben)