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UK parliamentarians join the call for de Lima's release

Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has scored the support of 27 members of the UK Parliament, who added their voices to the calls for her release after four years in detention.

In a statement on Sunday, de Lima's camp said the UK parliamentarians wrote a letter to the Philippine Ambassador to the United Kingdom Antonio Lagdameo on March 1.

Signatories included the Rt. Hon. Dame Diana Johnson MP (Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group), Tonia Antoniazzi MP, Harriett Baldwin MP, Paul Blomfield MP, Tracy Brabin MP, Lyn Brown MP, Dawn Butler MP, among others.

"We add to calls made by many others for her immediate release and an end to the continuing erosion of democratic freedoms in the Philippines," they were quoted as saying in the letter.

De Lima was detained in February 2017 for her supposed involvement in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during her stint as Justice Secretary.

Just last month, a court dismissed the drug case against de Lima and a certain Jose Adrian Dera by granting her demurrer to evidence. She had sought the dismissal of the case due to weak prosecution evidence and without the defense presenting its own.

The Muntinlupa court said the prosecution failed to establish evidence that de Lima conspired with Dera who supposedly collected drug money from inmate Peter Co.

"Senator de Lima's prosecution appears to have set the pattern of silencing of President Duterte's opponents, in which either trumped up criminal charges or false accusations of involvement in terrorism are brought against them," the UK parliamentarians said.

They also condemned the human rights abuses under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte who has led a bloody campaign against illegal drugs.

"President Duterte's self-styled 'war on drugs' has seen an estimated 30,000 extra-judicial killings -- along with increased targeting of journalists and human rights defenders, and the undermining of judicial independence," they said.

Lawmakers and groups from various countries in Europe and Africa, as well as the United States,  Canada, and Australia, earlier called for the release of De Lima and the dropping of charges against her. — DVM, GMA News