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ASEAN human rights delegates barred from visiting De Lima

Two delegates from the ASEAN Parliament for Human Rights on Tuesday said they were barred from visiting Senator Leila de Lima in her detention cell inside Camp Crame, main headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The two, Tian Chua and Charles Santiago, who came to the Philippines from Malaysia specifically to visit De Lima, said the PNP told them their request, which they submitted on September 26 in accordance with the 10-day visiting policy, has yet to be granted.

"Seeking an appointment with a fellow legislator who has now been incarcerated and is in detention is something that we want to do, and not allowing us to visit her actually further affirms our beliefs that she is unjustifiably detained, otherwise the government doesn’t have to worry about this," Santiago said.

Chua said they are "very disappointed that our entry was not granted despite us giving an ample notice before the visit."

The two said they were made to wait outside the PNP Custodial Center, where De Lima is detained over drug-related charges, for an hour before they were turned away.

Chua and Santiago were with fellow APHR members, Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. and Akbayan party-list Representative Tom Villarin, in visiting De Lima.

It was not the first time police barred international visitors from seeing De Lima. In July, the police prevented Liberal International (LI) president Juli Minoves from visiting the senator.

Malacañang said it was "unfortunate" that Minoves was not included on the list of approved visitors for De Lima and that police explained why he was barred from visiting, but did not disclose these reasons.

Chua believed the denial showed the administration's prohibition of international support for the senator, who they believe is innocent of the allegations linking her to the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison.

"Our intention was to come here to express our solidarity with her, and as a fellow legislator in another ASEAN country, we believe that she’s innocent and her persecution is part of the intimidation campaign against her, which violates her rights as a legislator," Chua said.

Several international organizations, including APHR and the European Parliament, have backed De Lima's claim of innocence. —KBK, GMA News