By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang has slammed the Human Rights Watch (HRW) for its “interference” in the domestic affairs of the Philippines, particularly the country’s justice system.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement after the New York-based watchdog called for the government to drop all charges against embattled Senator Leila de Lima.
De Lima is currently being detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame for her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) when she was still Justice Secretary.
“We condemn this continued interference not only because it misleads the public, but because it mocks the integrity of our justice system,” Roque said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
Roque reiterated the Palace’s earlier position that De Lima is not a political prisoner but is behind bars for charges of criminal nature.
“Senator De Lima is being portrayed as a prisoner of conscience, a so-called martyr for justice. She is none of these,” he said.
“She is facing charges of criminal nature, plain and simple. Her arrest, following a competent and independent court’s finding of probable cause, strictly followed legal procedures,” he added.
“Senator De Lima’s case is now pending before the local court. Let us allow the legal process to proceed accordingly,” he continued.
According to the Palace official, the HRW is only trying to get media mileage in the Philippines since the Philippines is the only country which recognizes the group.
“It is unfortunate that HRW is that desperate to get some media mileage and public attention in the Philippines by beating a dead and decaying horse,” Roque said.
“On the other hand, this is quite understandable considering that it is not getting any elsewhere in the world. In fact, it appears we’re the only country that remains tolerant of their sad existence,” he added.
De Lima, a critic of President Duterte, earlier called Roque Duterte’s propaganda artist, political manipulator, and a “great disappointment (for) the human rights movement.”
Roque, however, said De Lima should focus on how she would vindicate herself, rather than attacking him.