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Leila De Lima, a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’, which Ms. De Lima says has resulted in thousands of extra-judicial killings, was arrested on Friday 24th February on dubious charges related to her time as justice minister. Reacting immediately to the arrest, LI President of Honour, Hans van Baalen MEP, and LI Vice-President and Chair of the LI Human Rights Committee, Markus Loening, condemned the arrest and called for Ms. De Lima’s immediate release.
In the face of mounting international pressure from the liberals, who expressed concern that the arrest was just the latest evidence of the Philippines descending into an illiberal state, the current Minister of Justice in the Philippines, Vitaliano Aguirre II, told reporters: “That is not true. The Liberal International, Human Right Watch should come to the Philippines to see for themselves the changes, the difference and the good governance being implemented by President Duterte.”
According to numerous sources, President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ has cost in the region of 7,000 lives, up to 60% of which have been lost at the hands of unknown assailants. In a letter released since her incarceration, Senator De Lima wrote: “While I'm psychologically prepared for this, my whole being cries out for truth and justice… My heart also bleeds for all other victims of injustice - those who were also falsely accused and now cramped in severely congested jails.”
Over the weekend, LI cooperating organisation, Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), under the leadership of Thailand’s former Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, adopted a resolution on the ‘creeping authoritarianism’ in the Philippines.