PALAYAIN, NOW NA! | Free De Lima calls grow louder on eve of her first year in jail

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Philstar file photo of Sen. Leila de Lima

MANILA, Philippines — Calls for the release of Senator Leila de Lima snowballed as she marks her first year in detention on February 24, which coincides with the 32nd anniversary of the 1986 people power rising that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.

“The denial of due process and the incarceration for partisan and vindictive motives of a citizen, like Sen. Leila de Lima, demean the Constitution and diminish the nation,” Albay Rep Edcel Lagman said.

“The longer the deprivation of freedom lasts, like one long solitary and degrading year, the more the infringement of the Constitution worsens, and the more the affront to the nation aggravates,” he added.

Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said the senator’s detention “is a proof of how twisted the concept of justice has become under this administration.”

“While the senator who staunchly denounced the unlawful implementation of the war on drugs and fought for human rights was incarcerated, the real big drug lords go unscathed and continue to poison the lives of thousands of Filipinos. Kung sino pa ang tumatayo sa tama ay siya pang ginigipit,” he said.

Alejano noted that the drug charges against De Lima were never proven.

Lagman said she should be released so she could discharge her duties as senator.

In a separate statement, parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia reiterated their call for De Lima’s immediate freedom.

The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights warned her continued imprisonment represented a black mark on the Philippines’ international reputation.

“Senator de Lima’s unjust and politically motivated imprisonment continues to exemplify the grave threats to Philippine democracy that exist today, as well as the dire state of human rights in the country as a whole,” APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament, said.

“Her detention is a preposterous abuse of the criminal justice system, which only serves to undermine the rule of law in the Philippines. Senator de Lima is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately,” he added.

De Lima was arrested on February 24, 2017, one week after being charged with three counts of drug trafficking. She has remained in detention since, awaiting trial. Her arrest came as she was in the midst of leading a Senate investigation into President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs,’ which has seen thousands die at the hands of police and vigilantes since June 2016.

“As one of the most vocal opponents of the Duterte administration’s deadly ‘war on drugs,’ it is clear that Senator de Lima’s detention is the result of her dogged defense of the rights of all Filipinos. The government is relying on repression and intimidation to silence and impede the efforts of those working to uncover abuses and promote accountability,” Santiago said.