Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 4 November 2017


The European Parliament started the ball rolling almost immediately after the arrest of Sen. Leila de Lima.  The 751 directly elected members of the legislative branch of the 28-country European Union passed a resolution last March 15, less than three weeks after her arrest. The resolution “calls for the immediate release of Senator Leila M. De Lima and for her to be provided with adequate security whilst in detention; calls on the authorities of the Philippines to ensure a fair trial, recalling the right to the presumption of innocence, to drop all politically motivated charges against her and to end any further acts of harassment against her.”

For their efforts, they were rewarded with profanity, charges of hypocrisy, and calls to “leave us alone,” courtesy of President Duterte. Plus scattered threats of expulsion of EU representatives from the Philippines. No discussion of the issues.

Next came the Geneva-based, 176-member Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). Late last May, it sent its Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians to visit De Lima (and the Senate president and other senators). Last month, the committee’s report was approved by the IPU during its regular convention in Russia.  It called for her release, as there was “no evidence to justify”  the charges, as well as for an IPU observer to monitor and report on the legal proceedings.

In reaction, the administration accused them of bullying and meddling in Philippine affairs. No discussion of the issues.

The latest international reaction to what is going on in the Philippines and with Senator De Lima has come from Liberal International, an organization founded in 1947 in Oxford, England, and which now has political parties/organizations/alliances  constituting either the opposition or the majority of 50 countries as members, with more (observers) to come. This London-based organization, in its meeting in South Africa this year (over 100 participants), has awarded De Lima its “Prize for Freedom,” which is given yearly to an individual who “has made an outstanding contribution to human rights and political freedoms.” Noteworthy is that it considers her a political prisoner, just as Amnesty International considers her a prisoner of conscience.

With this award, which has been given since 1985, De Lima joins such world luminaries as Vaclav Havel (Czechoslovakia), Aung San Suu Kyi (Myanmar), Benazir Bhutto (Pakistan), Helen Suzman (South Africa), Mary Robinson (Ireland), as well as our own Corazon Aquino.

Reaction from the Palace? So far, zip. Perhaps too busy with the changing of the guard at the office of the presidential spokesperson. (To former spokesperson Ernesto Abella: You tried. And you were the most decent of his communications staff. You will be missed.)

But all this points to one thing: There is what Mr. Duterte thinks of De Lima, and there is what the rest of the world thinks of De Lima. And the difference is like night and day. Since the rest of the world has no axe to grind, either way it is infinitely more credible.

The next logical question is: With all these parliamentarians practically standing on their heads in defense of De Lima,  what have our parliamentarians done, except to cheer Mr. Duterte on? No sense of shame at all?

The best description of what De Lima faces from her persecutors comes from Justice Antonio Carpio’s dissent:  The present charge against her is like  “charging [her] as a co-principal and co-conspirator in the crime of kidnapping for ransom with murder, where the Information alleges that [she] received part of the ransom money from the perpetrators of the crime who are high profile inmates in the New Bilibid Prison, but the Information does not allege the identity of the actual kidnappers and killers, the identity of the victim, the fact of the death of the victim or the corpus delicti, how the victim was killed, and the amount of ransom money. Obviously, such an Information is void ab initio to charge anyone for the offense of kidnapping for ransom with murder. Such an information, like the present Information under consideration, would be laughable if not for the nonbailable detention of the accused.”

The world is watching, Philippines.