NEARLY A YEAR IN PRISON | Senators call for De Lima’s release amid 1986 EDSA uprising anniversary

Sen. Leila M. de Lima is escorted by members of the PNP in Nov. 16, 2017 hearing at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court-Branch 204. FILE PHOTO FROM SEN. DE LIMA'S OFFICE

MANILA, Philippines — Amid the 32nd anniversary of the 1986 EDSA people power uprising against the dictatorship of the Marcos regime, minority senators on Thursday joined calls for the “immediate release” of Sen. Leila de Lima, who will mark her first year in detention on Saturday, Feb. 24.

In a statement issued by the office of Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party, the lawmakers said De Lima’s arrest was “illegal” and her imprisonment “unjust.”

“As her colleagues at the Senate, we are pained by the reality that a member of this Chamber is locked up in jail on trumped-up charges when she should be here with us, engaging in productive discussions, legislating laws, and serving her constituents and our country,” the senators said in Senate Resolution No. 645, which they filed last Wednesday.

The resolution was signed by Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon and senators Pangilinan, Antonio Trillanes IV, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino III, and Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros.

They noted that De Lima’s continued unjust detention was instigated by her investigation of the Davao Death Squad as then chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and later investigation of the spate of extra-judicial killings in the country as a senator that “earned the ire of then Davao Mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte.”

De Lima’s colleagues lauded her spirit that “remains unbroken despite Duterte’s effort to tarnish her reputation and oppress her.”

“The road to her incarceration was tormenting — revealing in public her intimate relationships, publicly shaming her by threatening to screen in the House of Representatives her alleged sex videos, and branding her an immoral woman,” the senators said.

“Only a tenacious person with an unshakable resolve like Senator De Lima can withstand all these, unbowed, unbent, and unbroken,” they added.

The five senators acknowledged the increasing number of organizations and human rights advocates who have launched petitions seeking her freedom from incarceration.

They cited a March 2017 resolution by the European Parliament in Strasbourg calling for “the immediate release of Senator De Lima” and the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union’s call for her freedom in a report prepared by its human rights committee, among others.

“In the narrow confines of her detention cell and under restrictive conditions in the PNP Custodial Center, her physical body has deteriorated; only her dogged spirit to carry on is keeping her alive,” they said.

The same senators filed SR No. 505 in September 2017 asking the Senate leadership to allow De Lima to participate in the sessions and deliberations of important legislative measures. The resolution has not been acted upon.