SC de­ci­sion wors­ens hu­man rights

The Freeman - - OPINION -

The de­ci­sion by the Philip­pine Supreme Court on Tues­day to up­hold the ar­rest and de­ten­tion of Se­na­tor Leila de Lima wors­ens the al­ready de­te­ri­o­rat­ing hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion in the Philip­pines. De Lima has been in de­ten­tion at the po­lice head­quar­ters in Manila for nearly eight months on po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated charges.

On Tues­day, the Supreme Court, vot­ing 9-6, re­jected de Lima’s pe­ti­tion to void the ar­rest war­rant is­sued by a lo­cal trial court and to dis­miss the drug charges filed against her by the De­part­ment of Jus­tice. De Lima had ar­gued that the coun­try’s anti-graft court Sandi­gan­bayan has ju­ris­dic­tion over her, not the crim­i­nal courts. But the Supreme Court ruled that the Sandi­gan­bayan ju­ris­dic­tion “is lim­ited to vi­o­la­tions of the anti-graft laws and do not ex­tend to vi­o­la­tions of the drugs law.”

The De­part­ment of Jus­tice filed three cases against de Lima in Fe­bru­ary for al­legedly re­ceiv­ing bribes from ac­cused drug lords in­car­cer­ated at the Na­tional Bili­bid Prison, the na­tional pen­i­ten­tiary, for al­legedly us­ing the money to fi­nance her cam­paign for the Se­nate in 2016, and for al­legedly vi­o­lat­ing the coun­try’s an­tidrug traf­fick­ing law.

The cases re­lied en­tirely on spu­ri­ous tes­ti­monies from al­leged drug lords in­side the pen­i­ten­tiary ran by the De­part­ment of Jus­tice, which de Lima pre­vi­ously headed. In ex­change for charges against them be­ing dropped, these in­mates be­came state wit­nesses and took turns tes­ti­fy­ing against de Lima dur­ing the scan­dalous hear­ings in the Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives late last year, al­leg­ing that she took money from the drug trade in­side the prison.

But Duterte specif­i­cally tar­geted de Lima in his po­lit­i­cal vendetta be­cause, as chair of the Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights when Duterte was Davao City mayor, she ini­ti­ated in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the sum­mary killings in that city – killings that bear re­sem­blance to the blood­shed now oc­cur­ring across the Philip­pines. She even pre­sented in the Se­nate a for­mer mem­ber of the so-called Davao Death Squad who tes­ti­fied about killings di­rectly or­dered by Duterte and his po­lice force. As se­na­tor, de Lima went on to ex­pose the ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings re­lated to the so-called “war on drugs” by Pres­i­dent Duterte. As a re­sult, she was re­moved as chair of the com­mit­tee and her per­se­cu­tion and de­mo­niza­tion con­tin­ued up to her ar­rest in Fe­bru­ary.

The Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion this week pro­longs de Lima’s per­se­cu­tion and af­firms this trav­esty of jus­tice un­der Pres­i­dent Duterte.

Fr. Amado Pi­cardal

Con­venor

Net­work Against Killings Philip­pines

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