By Hannah Torregoza
Senators on Tuesday expressed their opposition to House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s proposal to withdraw from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
“House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should mind her own and we will mind our own,” Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon said in a statement.
“I oppose the proposal of Arroyo that we withdraw from the IPU just because this global body of parliamentarians expressed its concern over the political persecution of our fellow senators Leila de Lima and (Antonio) Sonny Trillanes (IV),” he further said.
Drilon, a former chairman of the IPU committee on human rights of parliamentarians, said the former president’s proposal is despairing, defeatist and would be seen by the world as a tacit admission that, indeed, critical lawmakers are being persecuted under the Duterte administration.
“It is folly for Speaker Arroyo to suggest that the IPU should be punished for performing its mandate to protect fellow members of the legislature from abusive and overreaching tendencies of certain officials of the executive,” he said.
“The respect for human rights, not only of Members of Parliament, but of ordinary citizens, is a basic pillar of democracy. We must all do our share to uphold civil and human rights as well as the rule of law, both here and abroad,” Drilon said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said such proposal is a “fake assertion of sovereignty to defend the country’s culture of killing and impunity.”
“It is also a virtual admission of guilt on the part of the Duterte government. It only confirms the IPU’s serious concerns about our country’s worsening human rights record,” Hontiveros said in a separate statement.
“If this goes on, the way it’s going, the Philippines will soon run out of intergovernmental bodies that it can be part of. First, we withdrew our membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC). Now, this,” she said.
“What’s next, we withdraw membership from the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) or even the United Nations (UN)?” Hontiveros asked.
Hontiveros said President Rodrigo Duterte cannot withdraw the Philippines from the world as the country is part of a global community joined by the shared respect for democracy, human rights and dignity.
“We cannot use our country’s sovereignty to mask the appalling climate of killing and impunity in the nation. We have an obligation to subject our public policies and even our leaders to international scrutiny, in the same way that we may hold accountable the actions of other nation-states,” she said.
Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, for his part, wondered where Arroyo’s recommendation is coming from.
Lacson said he believes Speaker Arroyo’s recommendation is based on the wrong premise since the IPU has yet to act on its human rights committee’s recommendation to the IPU Governing Council.
“Having said that, it is, premature, if at all, to denounce the IPU as a whole, much less withdraw membership from the body,” Lacson said.
“Second, by withdrawing, it would imply that the Philippine Senate acknowledges the political persecution of opposition senators,” he said.
Lacson also pointed out that the recent resolution of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 148 on Trillanes’ coup d’ etat case is enough proof that the judicial process works in the country.
It is also proof that the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary from the Executive and Legislative is evident and clear, according to the senator.
“Third, it is the Senate, not the House of Representatives, that is a member of the IPU, so I’m not sure where Speaker GMA is coming from,” Lacson said.