MALACAÑANG on Wednesday, February 14, blasted New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) for allegedly interfering in the Philippines' domestic affairs when it called for the dismissal of drug charges lodged against detained Senator Leila de Lima.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said the HRW's plea to acquit De Lima is a total mockery of the Philippines' justice system.
"This recent call by the New York-based 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," the Palace official said in a statement.
"We condemn this continued interference not only because it misleads the public, but because it mocks the integrity of our justice system," he added.
In a statement released earlier Wednesday, the international human rights organization appealed to the Duterte government to drop the "politically-motivated" prosecution of De Lima, a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody drug war.
The HRW's call was made 10 days before De Lima reaches her first year of stay in detention.
De Lima has been slapped with three counts of drug charges before separate courts in Muntinlupa City.
She was arrested on February 24, 2017 over allegations that she was involved in the rampant narcotics trade inside the state penitentiary New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City when she was still the Justice Secretary.
The opposition senator is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
The HRW believed De Lima should be set free because the allegations hurled against her was "baseless."
"Duterte and his government have systematically disparaged, harassed, and intimidated those who have pursued accountability for drug war crimes domestically and internationally," the group said.
"The Philippine government should drop its politically motivated prosecution of Senator Leila De Lima," it added.
Roque insisted that De Lima was not a "prisoner of conscience" since the government followed legal procedures on her case.
He told the HRW to respect the Philippines' legal process and let the proper court to decide on the senator's fate.
"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 nature, plain and simple. Her arrest, following a competent and independent court’s finding of probable cause, strictly followed legal procedures," Roque said.
"Senator De Lima’s case is now pending before the local court. Let us allow the legal process to proceed accordingly," he added.
Roque said the Philippine government was not pleased by the HRW's "desperate" move to take advantage of De Lima's situation to earn widespread recognition.
"It is unfortunate that HRW is that 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," he said. (SunStar Philippines)