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After De Lima arrest, Asian liberals warn vs. ‘creeping authoritarianism’ in PHL

An alliance of "liberal and democratic political parties" in Asia warned of "creeping authoritarianism" in the Philippines following the arrest of Sen. Leila de Lima.

In a resolution issued Saturday, the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) said it "urges Filipinos and the international community to remain vigilant" against this.

The alliance is calling for the "immediate review" of the three drug charges filed against De Lima, over her alleged involvement in the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison.

It expressed "strong concerns" over De Lima's arrest last Friday, noting how it was "based solely on conflicting testimonies of criminals who were subsequently absolved of drug charges" after testifying against the senator.

The group tagged the arrests as among "warning signs of 'creeping authoritarianism'" in the country, along with "attacks on independent media and attempts to bolster" the presidency by revising the Constitution and historical revisionism.

Reaffirming its opposition to extrajudicial killings, the group also asked the public "to condemn continuing violations of fundamental human rights and the rule of law, and disregard of democratic institutions and processes."

The CALD is composed of several political parties in Asia, including the Philippines' Liberal Party, where De Lima is a member.

Leaders of these parties convened in Bangkok over the weekend, and issued a statement against "the new wave of populism, authoritarianism, and extremism now gripping the region and the world."

"We collectively recognized that the wave of discontent that led to the rise of populist leaders and the growing support for illiberal and authoritarian policies are partly a result of the failure to genuinely listen to the issues that matter to the people, and to adequately respond to their needs," its chairperson Abhisit Vejjajiva said in a statement.

"As liberals and democrats, we always work for policies that truly cater to the interest of the people, but must strive to serve the people's needs better so that we can effectively fight the populists and authoritarian leaders who have been exploiting fears and insecurities and peddling simplistic solutions to complex problems," Vejjajiva added. — Rose-An Jessica Dioquino/BM, GMA News