SC decision worsens human rights
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
Network Against Killings Philippines