By Roy Mabasa
The Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations has endorsed a report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recommending the immediate release of Sen. Leila de Lima from what it called as “arbitrary detention.”
A known critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly war on drugs campaign, de Lima has been in detention since February 2017 on allegations that she pocketed drug payoffs from convicted drug lords when she was secretary of justice under the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III.
“Regarding the former Chair of the Commission, Ms. Leila M. de Lima, on 24 August 2018 the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted an opinion which highlights, among other things, that the detention is deemed arbitrary and recommends that Ms. de Lima be released immediately, afforded compensation, and that her detention be investigated. Ms. de Lima has been in prison since February 2018 on allegations of drug-related charges, deemed “politically motivated” by several special procedures mandate holders,” the UN official said in the endorsement quoting a report from the OHCHR.
De Lima served as chair of the Philippines’ Human Rights Commission before she became DOJ secretary and, eventually, senator.
The UN official noted in its endorsement that the Philippine government provided detailed information on the legal proceedings and the status of the ongoing cases against the lady senator, indicating “it is improper to intervene with regard to her detention and prosecution in light of concerns for the independence and impartiality of the judicial process.”
In the Secretary-General’s endorsement, it highlights activities, policy developments and good practices within the United Nations system and beyond to address intimidation and reprisals against those seeking to cooperate or have cooperated with the UN, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights.
During last year’s 82nd session of the Human Rights Council, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention under the OHCHR adopted a report concerning the plight of de Lima.
Meanwhile, United States Republican Senator Marco Rubio has called on the Philippine government to free de Lima from detention based on what he described as “bogus charges.”
“I call on the Philippine government to unconditionally release her #FreeLeilaNow #ExpressionNOTOppression,” Rubio said in a tweet Saturday.