MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Wednesday censured New York-headquartered international non-government organization Human Rights Group (HRW) over its alleged “continued interference” in Philippine affairs, specifically in the case of detained Sen. Leila de Lima.
“This recent call by…Human Rights Watch for the government to drop all charges against Senator Leila de Lima is nothing but sheer meddling with our country’s domestic affairs,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
Almost a year ago, on February 24, 2017, De Lima, a member of the Liberal Party and Duterte’s top critic since he was mayor of Davao City, was arrested and detained after drug-related charges were filed against her by the Department of Justice. She was specifically accused of taking bribes from jailed drug traffickers.
Before her arrest, De Lima, as chair of the Senate Justice Committee, led the Upper Chamber in investigating Duterte’s alleged involvement in extrajudicial killings through the vigilante group Davao Death Squad (DDS), which the President allegedly formed while he was Davao mayor.
In 2009, when De Lima was still Commission on Human Rights chief, she likewise led an investigation into summary killings also allegedly perpetrated by the DDS.
On Wednesday, Roque said HRW’s “continued interference” was condemnable because “(it does) not only… misleads the public, but…(also)…mocks the integrity of our justice system.”
“Senator De Lima is being portrayed as a prisoner of conscience, a so-called martyr for justice. She is none of these; she is facing charges of criminal in nature, plain and simple,” he added.
Also, Duterte’s spokesperson accused HRW of being “desperate to get some media mileage and public attention in the Philippines by beating a dead and decaying horse.”
“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,” said Roque.