The imprisonment of persons who are perceived as staunch critics “does not diminish the government’s obligation to respect human rights and dignity,” the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Feb. 27, on the fourth year of Sen. Leila de Lima’s detention, the CHR stressed “the constitutional rights of the Senator, as well as all other persons deprived of liberty, to due process, presumption of innocence, and the right to a speedy, impartial, and public trial.”
The CHR said: “Every human rights standard that is not upheld pulls us away from the full respect for human dignity. In all aspects of governance, we urge the government to use human rights as its guide.”
De Lima was arrested and detained in February 2017 on charges of conspiracy to illegal drugs trading, a non-bailable offense, at the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City when she was secretary of justice.
The senator has since been detained at the Custodial Center of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Quezon City.
Of the three criminal cases filed against her and her co-accused, one was dismissed by the Muntinlupa City regional trial court (RTC) on her demurer (a plea to dismiss on claims that the prosecution’s evidence is weak) to evidence. Her remaining two cases are undergoing court proceedings.
In a statement issued by Spokesperson and lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia, the CHR said;
“The Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners assert that “[e]xcept for those limitations that are demonstrably necessitated by the fact of incarceration, all prisoners shall retain the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“Where the State concerned is a party, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocol thereto, as well as such other rights as are set out in other United Nations covenants.
“As for Senator de Lima, we hope that the government unequivocally upholds the equal application of these rights, despite the Senator being one of the strongest voices of opposition.
“We expect that, as the Philippine Government pledges greater and better adherence to human rights standards, the same commitment applies to Senator de Lima and all those allegedly being targeted using the legal system for being staunch critics of the government.
“It is our hope that the justice system continues to tilt the balance in favour of what is just, right, and humane. Every prolonged day that an innocent person remains in detention is an affront to human rights.”