People’s lawyers say ‘hypocritical, inaccurate’ to depict De Lima as political prisoner

Feb. 25, 2017

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—A lawyers’ group said it is inaccurate to depict Senator Leila De Lima as a political prisoner.  De Lima is a staunch critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

“It is disgracefully hypocritical -for those who were in power before to ironically now cry foul or for those who kept their silence during those long years – to inaccurately depict a transitory intra-elite sordid ordeal,” NUPL President Atty. Edre U. Olalia said in a statement.

While it recognized that the government’s treatment to De Lima has all the appearances of political harassment, corruption of legal and judicial processes including the selective punishment abuse of transitory power, NUPL pointed out that “the stand for human rights cannot be selective, time-bound and self-serving, even as we must view it holistically.”

“We must put a sense of proportion and look at things in a holistic perspective,” Olalia said.

Olalia said that at present there are already 30 under the present dispensation who are lesser known, powerless activists, farmers, indigenous peoples, social workers and peace consultants arrested brazenly for political reasons.

This on top of hundreds of political prisoners collected mostly under the previous administration, he said.  “They were thrown to decrepit and squalid jails on false charges, keys thrown away, for far nobler causes without the glare of the floodlights or excessive publicity hype.”

On Friday morning, De Lima surrendered to arresting authorities after she had spent a night in the Senate to evade arrest Thursday.

A local court in Manila has issued an arrest warrant against her after a judge found merit in the drug trafficking charges filed by the Department of Justice last week.

De Lima was accused of receiving money from detained drug lords during her stint as justice secretary during the Aquino administration back in 2010 to 2015.

“It is my honor to be imprisoned for the things I am fighting for,” De Lima said. “They will not be able to silence me and stop me from fighting for the truth and justice and against the daily killings and repression by the Duterte regime.”

For human rights group Karapatan,  De Lima is not the first political prisoner under Duterte.

The group named Romeo Loren, peasant and political prisoner at the BJMP Lupon Davao Oriental, who was arrested on July 28, 2016, political activist Ferdinand Castillo and development workers Rogina Quilop, Sarah Alikes and Amy Pond are among the 30 political prisoners arrested under the Duterte administration and are still detained up to present.

“Her supporters’ claims that she is the first political prisoner deny the existence of political prisoners arrested under Duterte and the continuing people’s struggle,” Karapatan said in a statement.

But the human rights group pointed out that “despite these, it also doesn’t negate the view that Sen. De Lima is facing this kind of political vendetta and harassment from the Duterte administration because she is a critic of the administration.”

“It also doesn’t negate the view that the vicious cycle of putting one faction’s political rivals in jail is an indication of the crisis among those in power. We are witnessing the wrangling of factions of the elite, who at many times played deaf to the persecution and killing of peasants, workers and struggling communities, to maintain the status quo and to support those in power,” the group said. (

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