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EU lawmakers call on Philippines to rejoin ICC, decriminalize libel

The Human Rights Committee of the European Parliament called on the Philippines to rejoin the International Criminal Court (ICC) and decriminalize libel and cyberlibel laws to improve its human rights record.

“The delegation was made aware of continuing extra judicial killings, and underscored the importance of investigating each such case and ensuring accountability of perpetrators," said European Parliament Sub-Committee on Human Rights Vice-chair Hannah Neumann at the conclusion of the parliamentarians’ three-day visit to the Philippines.

"Members underlined that rejoining by the Philippines of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court - to which all member states of the EU are signatories - would reinforce the government’s stated commitment to fighting impunity,” Neumann added.

While the Philippines signed the Rome Statute in 2011, it pulled out in March 2018 during the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte.

“The Philippines rejoining the Rome Statute would reinforce the government’s commitment to fight impunity with added resources [that comes with ICC involvement],” said Neumann.

The European parliamentarians also underscored the importance of a vibrant civil society and free media to make democracies work.

“We called on the authorities to ensure a safe and enabling space: free from threats, harassment and attacks. In this regard, they encouraged a swift adoption of an ambitious legislation on the protection of human rights defenders,” Neumann said.

“Moreover, we expressed support for local calls for the decriminalization of libel and cyber libel, as well as for the effective end of the practice of 'red tagging' and abuse of the anti-terror legislation to tame critical voices.”

Neumann and her colleagues, Isabel Wiseler Lima, Ryszard Czamecki, Miguel Urban Crespo, and Karsten Lucke, also paid a visit to former Senator Leila de Lima, who is detained due to drug-related charges.

Friday, February 24, marked de Lima’s sixth year in detention.

One of the main witnesses against her, former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos, has since retracted his allegation that de Lima was involved in the drug trade in the national penitentiary.

“We reiterate our call for [de Lima's] immediate and unconditional release and the dropping of all the remaining charges against her, and expressed the same request as concerns all other political prisoners,” said Neumann.


The European lawmakers also discussed the ongoing dialogue between the Philippines and the EU on the core human rights dimension of the country’s reapplication to the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus preferential trade scheme.

“GSP+ is based on two pillars: preferential access for the large amount of goods in the EU free of tax and tariffs and implementing international standards on labor rights, social rights, human rights, and environmental rights. It is something both sides, the Philippines and EU signed up to, to make sure the economic growth benefits the Filipino people and fully complements our economy,” Neumann said.

Having said that, Neuman added that ensuring fair delivery of justice, including the Philippines’ return to ICC and dismissing drug charges against de Lima, would ensure more investments and make the Philippines more attractive to investors.

“European companies, when they look in the world where they can invest, they look for those who can provide speedy and fair delivery of justice to ensure that their investments will be fruitful and sustainable,” she said.

“Releasing Senator Leila de Lima, who is detained on bogus charges, and the Philippines returning to the ICC are moves that we expect from GSP partner countries,” Neumann added. — DVM, GMA Integrated News