PHL 003 / 0620 / OBS 062
Incommunicado detention /
June 5, 2020
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in the Philippines.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the incommunicado detention of Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, a human rights lawyer and an elected member of the Philippine Senate.
According to the information received, Senator de Lima has been denied visitors since April 25, 2020 as part of preventive measures against the COVID-19. She was also prevented from communicating with the outside world between May 5, 2020 and May 27, 2020.
On April 25, 2020, Senator de Lima’s staff was denied the right to visit her at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center at Manila’s Camp Crame, where she is detained. They were then informed that the Director of the Headquarter Support Services (HSS) had issued a Memorandum on April 16, 2020, suspending the visitation rights of detained persons (except for their personal doctors) at the PNP Custodial Center, as “part of the preventive measures against the COVID-19 and ensure the safety and protection of PUPCs [Persons under police custody] and CSU [Custodial Service Unit] personnel from contagion”. Several requests have been made by Senator de Lima’s staff and by the Senator herself to the Custodial Center administration in order to exempt her from these measures, given her status as a working legislator and the conditions at the PNP Custodial Center, which is not congested and where social distancing measures can be implemented. However, all requests have been rejected.
In addition, between April 25, 2020 and May 5, 2020, Senator de Lima was allowed to make only four phone calls. On May 18, 2020, after 14 days without being able to reach out to her staff or family, Senator Leila de Lima wrote to the commanding officer of the PNP Custodial Center asking to be allowed to make at least two phone calls a week with her executive assistant. Once again, this request was denied until the resumption of phone call communications on May 28, 2020.
The Observatory recalls that Senator Leila de Lima has been held in pre-trial detention at the PNP Custodial Center at Manila’s Camp Crame since her arrest on February 24, 2017, in a fabricated case alleging her involvement in a drug trafficking ring inside the New Bilibid Prison in Metro Manila’s Muntinlupa City, while she was Department of Justice Secretary. If convicted, Ms. de Lima could face between 12 years and life in prison. The Observatory further recalls that Senator de Lima has been a staunch critic of President Duterte’s approach to combating crimes and drug trafficking which made her a target for the President, who threatened to “destroy her in public” prior to her imprisonment.
The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the incommunicado detention of Senator Leila de Lima and the restrictions on her right to visits and communications, which seems to be aimed at preventing her from exercising her duties as a Senator and her legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory urges the Philippines authorities to immediately and unconditionally lift all restrictions imposed on her, as well as to release her immediately and unconditionally.
Please write to the authorities in the Philippines, urging them to:
i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Senator Leila de Lima, as well as of all human rights defenders in the Philippines;
ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Senator Leila de Lima, as well as all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the Philippines, since her detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at punishing her for her human rights activities;
iii. Lift all restrictions imposed on Senator Leila de Lima and guarantee her unhindered access to her lawyers and family members;
iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Senator Leila de Lima, as well as all other human rights defenders in the Philippines, and ensure in all circumstances that she is able to carry out her legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
v. Conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular with Articles 1 and 12.2;
vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Philippines.
· Mr. Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Republic of the Philippines, Fax: +632 742-1641 / 929-3968, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message through http://president.gov.ph/contact-us/;
· Mr. Teodoro Locsin Jr, Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, Email: email@example.com;
· Hon. Menardo Guevarra, Secretary, Department of Justice of the Philippines, Fax: (+632) 521-1614, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
· Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, Fax: +632 929 0102, Email: email@example.com;
· Police General Oscar Albayalde, Chief, Philippine National Police, National Headquarters Building, Camp BGen Rafael Crame, Quezon City, 1111 Philippines. Fax: +632 724 8749 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
· H.E. Mr. Evan P. Garcia, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 716 19 32 Email: email@example.com;
· Embassy of the Philippines in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 02 345 64 25, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Philippines located in your country.
Geneva-Paris, June 5, 2020
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
 For more background information, see Observatory Press Releases of February 23, 2018: “Philippines: Release of Senator Leila de Lima urged on the one-year anniversary of her detention” and May 6, 2020: “Philippines: Arbitrarily imprisoned Senator de Lima prevented from participating in Senate sessions via teleconference”.