Rodrigo Duterte

Hong Kong politician calls on Rodrigo Duterte to end ‘political persecution’ of his arch-enemy

Veteran Hong Kong democrat Emily Lau said she wished her home city had more politicians as courageous as Senator Leila de Lima during visit to the Philippines

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 9:33pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 2:23am

A veteran democrat in Hong Kong has called on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to end the “political persecution” of his arch-enemy Senator Leila de Lima, who has been held in a detention centre since February.

Emily Lau Wai-hing visited de Lima on Thursday as a member of the delegation from the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats. As she called for the human rights defender’s release, Lau said she hoped for more Hong Kong politicians as courageous as the senator.

“I hope we will have many determined, courageous and principled politicians in Hong Kong, people who are prepared to make personal sacrifices to fight for public good, for civil liberties, rule of law and democracy,” Lau said from Manila.

“If more Hong Kong people learn about Senator de Lima’s struggle, I think they will have nothing but admiration and support for her and wish more Hong Kong politicians were like her.”

De Lima, a former secretary for justice and strongly opposed to Duterte’s war on drugs, was arrested in February on drug-related charges that her supporters believed were the state leader’s attempt to silence her. That war has reportedly killed more than 12,500 people since Duterte took office in June last year.

Last week, more than 1,000 people attended a funeral procession for 17-year-old high school student Kian Loyd delos Santos – who was killed by the police – turning the march into one of the biggest protests against Duterte’s war on drugs.

“We call on the Philippine authorities to immediately release Senator de Lima by withdrawing the drug trafficking charges against her. The charges do not stand even a cursory legal scrutiny, having been based on conflicting testimonies of criminals who were subsequently absolved of drug charges after they agreed to be prosecution witnesses,” Lau said.

She called the senator’s case “political persecution”, a result of the politician’s stance against the war on drugs.

The Hong Kong politician, 64, stepped down from the legislature last year after serving as a lawmaker for 25 years, having advocated universal suffrage, human rights and the rule of law.

She made it clear she had no fear of Duterte.

“The president may curse us but so what?” she told Philippine media outlet Rappler.

“I speak as someone who’s not been allowed to be into mainland China for almost 30 years so this is not new to me.”

She also said that if de Lima is released, it would send a powerful message to the international community that there is the rule of law and justice in the country.

Human rights defenders who have worked with de Lima told the Post earlier that she was someone of the highest integrity – incorruptible, willing to meet anyone and whose resolve would not be easily broken.

Karen Gomez-Dumpit, commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights, recalled a workshop she attended with de Lima in a hotel. Afterwards, when the hotel gave de Lima – chairwoman of the commission at the time – just a towel as a gift. She refused.

“Her policy was that she did not take any gifts. I think that if you are good in the little things, then surely you will be honest with the big things,” Gomez-Dumpit said earlier. “She lives a simple lifestyle. Just at look her glasses, watches and jewellery. She never wears girly things.”

In April, the Post obtained a report authored by a retired intelligence officer showing how the Philippine police have secretly implemented an organised system to coordinate the execution of suspected drug offenders.

The 26-page report, compiled based on accounts from 12 serving and five retired officers up to the ranks of chief superintendent, said the police have absorbed the infamous “Davao Death Squad”, allegedly run by Duterte during his years as mayor of the southern city.

The report claimed station commanders and their Philippine National Police (PNP) superiors would hold weekly meetings to coordinate efforts in locating and subsequently killing suspects.

After targets had been located, police station chiefs would then coordinate with chairmen of Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Councils – the government’s village-level offices – to shut down closed-circuit television cameras before executions took place.