By Hannah Torregoza
The Senate minority bloc has joined calls for the immediate release of opposition Senator Leila de Lima, who will mark her first year of arrest and detention on Saturday, February 24.
The group, led by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, pushed for the approval of Senate Resolution No. 645, calling for the release of their colleague who is also a member of the bloc.
To them, de Lima, a vocal critic of the administration and who is now detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) over drug charges, is the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime.
“As her colleagues at the Senate, we are pained by the reality that a member of this Chamber is locked up in jail on trumped-up charges when she should be here with us, engaging in productive discussions, legislating laws, and serving her constituents and our country,” the group said in a statement.
Those who signed the resolution were Drilon, Senators Francis Pangilinan, Antonio Trillanes IV, Bam Aquino, and Risa Hontiveros.
They said de Lima earned the ire of the President after she instigated an investigation of the infamous Davao Death Squad as then chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) at the time Duterte was still Davao city mayor.
She later on conducted a probe on the spate of extra-judicial killings (EJKs) in the country in the light of the President’s war on drugs as a senator.
But despite her unjust detention, the senators noted that her spirit remains unbroken despite Duterte’s effort to tarnish her reputation and oppress her.
“The road to her incarceration was tormenting — revealing in public her intimate relationships, publicly shaming her by threatening to screen in the House of Representatives her alleged sex videos, and branding her an immoral woman,” they said.
“Only a tenacious person with an unshakable resolve like Senator De Lima can withstand all these, unbowed, unbent, and unbroken,” they added.
Under the resolution, the five senators acknowledged the increasing number of organizations and human rights advocates who have launched petitions seeking her freedom from incarceration.
They cited a March 2017 resolution by the European Parliament in Strasbourg calling for “the immediate release of Senator de Lima” and the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union’s call for her freedom in a report prepared by its human rights committee.
“In the narrow confines of her detention cell and under restrictive conditions in the PNP Custodial Center, her physical body has deteriorated; only her dogged spirit to carry on is keeping her alive,” they said.
The minority bloc, likewise, urged the Senate leadership to act on their Senate Resolution No. 505 which they filed last September, 2017.
The resolution urged the Senate leadership to allow de Lima to participate in the sessions and deliberations of important legislative measures but the resolution has not been acted upon.
Early this week, the Senate committee on ethics and privileges dismissed the three ethics case lodged against De Lima.
One of the cases was filed by leaders of the House of Representatives, while the two other charges were initiated by presidential spokesman Harry Roque and lawyer Abelardo de Jesus.