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De Lima: I worry more about EJK victims than my freedom

Senator Leila M. de Lima has welcomed ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights' (APHR) call for her release from detention as she expressed support to the group's plea to end extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the country.

De Lima, a known human rights defender, said the support she is getting from APHR and other human rights groups gives her strength and fortitude to continue without relent her fight against EJKs.

"The President can lock me in jail as long as he wants to but he cannot stop me from opposing the alleged state-sponsored daily drug killings in the country, the same way that he cannot hide my innocence from sensible people such as the ASEAN lawmakers who know that the charges filed against me were politically motivated," she said. "I will never stay silent about the brazen killings in our country that have claimed thousands of lives, as well as the flagrant abuses and injustices of this government that clearly violate the basic rights and human dignity of the people," she added.

Amid uproar against President Duterte's murderous war on drugs, APHR joined snowballing call for De Lima's freedom, pointing out that the Senator's effort to defend human rights should be "applauded, not punished."

"President Duterte's increasingly brutal war on drugs is an affront to human rights, the rule of law, and democratic accountability. Senator De Lima's pointed criticism of it should be applauded, not punished, and she should be freed from prison and allowed to continue her important work in the Senate," APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament, said in a statement.

APHR noted De Lima's continuing detention is the government's attempt to silence critics of the murderous drug war and other policies spearheaded by the President.

"It's clear that the charges against her are politically motivated, and her continued imprisonment, along with threatening rhetoric from the administration, sends a chilling signal to others who might oppose this killing spree," Santiago said.

"Senator De Lima has always been a thorn in President Duterte's side, first investigating Davao City's notorious death squads and more recently, taking action to investigate extrajudicial killings. To pretend that this is not related to her arrest and imprisonment would be turning a blind eye to the reality on the ground," added APHR board member Mu Sochua.

While she is grateful for the overwhelming support she has received from local and foreign lawmakers and human rights groups who vouched for her integrity, De Lima said her freedom does not worry her the most.

"More than my freedom, I am more concerned about rising death toll in Duterte's drug war. I feel for the Filipino people who have been murdered without a day in court and the families, especially children who lost their loved ones by violence," she said.

Duterte, who has unfailingly backed police-led killings, maintained he would continue his deadly war on drugs that killed an estimate of 12,000 people, up to the last day of his term in 2022.

A staunch critic of injustices happening in the country since Duterte became the country's President, De Lima vowed to protect human rights even while in detention for trumped-up drug charges fabricated by the present administration.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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