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Southeast Asian lawmakers' group calls for de Lima release

PhilStar Global logo PhilStar Global 20/2/2018 Gaea Katreena Cabico

MANILA, Philippines — The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights called for the immediate and unconditional release of Sen. Leila de Lima, one of the most outspoken critics of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration. 

In a video message, APHR chairperson Charles Santiago expressed his deep concern over what he called the "unjust and politically-motivated detention" of de Lima. 

"Senator Leila has consistently stood up for human rights and stood firm against abuses by the administration of President Duterte, including the brutal war on drugs," Santiago said. 

He noted that de Lima should be lauded as a hero for human rights not only in the Philippines, but also in the whole Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Despite the name, AHPR is not affiliated with the regional association although it is composed of lawmakers from the region.

"Instead of celebrating her contribution for human rights, to human rights, the government of the Philippines has put her in jail. This we find unacceptable," the APHR chairperson said.

The Palace, reacting to a similar call by US-based Human Rights Watch, has said that the charges against the senator, who investigated alleged extrajudicial killings in Davao City when she was Commission on Human Rights chair and later as Justice secretary, are not motivated by politics.

READ: HRW: Gov't should drop 'politically-motivated' charges vs De Lima

In this Feb. 24, 2017 photo, Sen. Leila De Lima turns herself in to the Philippine National Police CIDG team at the Senate building in Pasay City. PNA/Avito C. Dalan, file © Philstar.com In this Feb. 24, 2017 photo, Sen. Leila De Lima turns herself in to the Philippine National Police CIDG team at the Senate building in Pasay City. PNA/Avito C. Dalan, file

De Lima was arrested on February 24, 2017 over drug-related charges but is yet to be arraigned due to procedural delays.

Her arraignment was postponed in December few days after the prosecution had filed a motion seeking to amend information on the charges against her for her alleged involvement in the New Bilibid Prison drug trade while she was Justice secretary.

Arraignment was again postponed in January after Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Judge Juanita Guerrero, who ordered De Lima arrested last year, inhibited from the case.

The senator, who is currently detained at Camp Crame, has repeatedly denied the charges.

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