Delegates of the ASEAN Parliament for Human Rights (APHR) expressed disappointment as they were barred from visiting detained Senator Leila De Lima in Camp Crame despite having complied with a 10-day visiting notice.
APHR’s Tian Chua and Charles Santiago went to the Philippines from Malaysia specifically to meet De Lima but denied the chance to speak with the senator.
Santiago, ASEAN Parliament member, said in an interview that not allowing them for a visit reaffirmed their beliefs that the senator is “unjustifiably detained.”
“Seeking an appointment with a fellow legislator who has now been incarcerated and is in detention is something that we want to do, and not allowing us to visit her actually further affirms our beliefs that she is unjustifiably detained, otherwise the government doesn’t have to worry about this,” Santiago
“I and my colleagues are very disappointed that our entry was not granted despite us giving an ample notice before the visit,” added Chua, also a member of ASEAN Parliament.
Chua and Santiago, along with fellow APHR members, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. and AKBAYAN Rep. Tom Villarin, waited outside the custodial center of the Philippine National Police (PNP) for an hour hoping that a decision to grant their request would be issued.
The parliamentarians submitted their demand of entry as early as Sept. 6 abiding to the 10-day visiting notice but the request has yet to be granted.
On the other hand, authorities failed to cite the reason for the delay of issuing the permit.
Chua added the decision to prohibit them from visiting De Lima only shows that the government is set on prohibiting international organizations to throw their support to the Senator.
“We believe that if the authorities have nothing to hide, and if the authorities are doing things according to the principle of transparency, then we should not be denied from interacting and paying our visit to show our regards to her,” Chua said.
Chua, as a fellow legislator in another ASEAN country, believed that De Lima is innocent, saying that the persecution is part of a “intimidation campaign” against the senator which violates her rights as a legislator.
“We find her detention unjustifiable given she’s a representative doing her work. She is now in jail and for standing up against [the policies] of President Duterte, so therefore, we are here to express our solidarity with her,” Chua added.
Chua and Santiago avowed their call for the immediate release of De Lima, saying the senator should be given her freedom “without any conditions attached to it.”
Last July, Liberal International (LI) president Juli Minoves was also barred from visiting De Lima due to an “administrative excuse.”