Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has thanked Australian lawyer Mark Trowell for his assurance that the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) will fairly and regularly monitor her legal proceedings on trumped-up illegal drug trading cases filed against her.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, said she is grateful that the IPU is taking a “special interest” in her case despite the very limited access given to foreign officials who wanted to visit her and check on her situation.
“In a recent interview, Mr. Trowell shared that he will return in the Philippines next year to attend my hearings again so he can have a more detailed report to the IPU regarding the progress of my case,” she said.
“I express my deep gratitude to him for his determination to closely monitor my legal battle and ensure respect for fair trial standards in my case on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, even if it means traveling thousands of miles away from his home,” she added.
Trowell, a trial observer for the IPU, was present before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 205 last Nov. 8 when the court deferred anew the hearing on the alleged conspiracy to trade illegal drug during her term as then justice secretary.
“It wasn’t much of an experience because nothing really happened,” said Trowell, who first attempted to attend De Lima’s trial, which was called off on short notice, last May 3.
According to Trowell, while De Lima’s case is “special interest of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,” he would not comment on the progress of the case yet until he sees the outcome of the future hearings and reads the ruling of the judge about the case.
The Australian lawyer, however, vowed to return to the country to further monitor De Lima’s legal proceedings and find a way to visit the Senator inside her detention quarters in Camp Crame sometime in 2020 despite hard access to her while in prison.
“There’s one matter that does concern me, and that is the limited access to Senator De Lima while she’s in prison. [I]t looks like the government has put in place a number of bureaucratic barriers to prevent easy access to her. [I]t doesn’t need to be as difficult as this, particularly as she is not a convicted prisoner,” he said.
“I [will] certainly be making an application [to visit her]. So when I return early next year, I certainly will have made the application, with the [approval] of the Australian Embassy, and hopefully, the endorsement of the Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Department. Then I suppose it’s up to the police or the prison authorities as to whether they think I’m a fit and proper person, or a risk in prison,” he added.
Trowell also served as a trial observer of Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister and political leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was jailed in 1999 and 2015, and was pardoned and released from prison last year, for many years.
In a resolution adopted at the conclusion of the 139th IPU Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland in Oct. 18, 2018, the IPU expressed deep concerns over the human rights violations committed against De Lima.
In October 2017, the IPU General Assembly adopted the Human Rights Committee’s report and recommendation for IPU to send a trial observer to monitor De Lima’s legal proceedings as it reiterated its call for her release from detention.