By William Casis | FilAm Star Correspondent
Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima welcomed an inquiry by the United States Congress on the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines, including the spate of killings and harassment to human rights defenders and political critics like herself.
De Lima said she appreciates the move by the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs led by Rep. Brad Sherman, and other organizations to reaffirm their commitment to human rights.
“I thank the members of the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs and their esteemed resource persons led by Francisco Bencosme of Amnesty International in raising the issue of worsening human rights situation in the Philippines during a public hearing last July 25 In Washington D.C,” she said.
Last July 29, De Lima, through her staff, tweeted a link to the video of the recent US House investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines which denounced Duterte for the spate of killings and harassment of human rights defenders and political critics.
The House probe was led by the US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Non-proliferation which tackled, among others, the human rights violations, the trend of extra-judicial executions and a growing climate of attacks on rights defenders in the country.
Sharing the link to the video, De Lima also “tweeted” the testimonies made by Amnesty International Asia Pacific Advocacy Manager Francisco Bencosme who told US lawmakers that the international community cannot turn a blind eye on the regional trends of abuses seen in several Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines, that require immediate action.
“These extra-judicial executions in the Philippines have resulted in a high level of impunity in the country, which is also one of the main regional trends we see throughout Southeast Asia,” Bencosme said.
“The second trend we’re seeing is a growing climate of attacks on human rights defenders.
Attacks on activists, journalists and human rights defenders have only flourished and intensified, making the realization of human rights in each of these countries all the more challenging,” he added.
While thousands are unjustly killed in the Philippines, Bencosme noted that human rights defenders, particularly women who speak out against the excesses of the government, are under attack, including De Lima.
“Sen. Leila de Lima, President Duterte’s most vocal critic is enduring her third year of arbitrary detention on politically-motivated charges, after seeking to carry out a Senate investigation of drug-related killings,” he said.
“I think the fact that there is constant harassment of human rights defenders in the Philippines, is part of a larger trend where President Duterte sort of attacks most of his critics,” he added.
During the hearing, Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner also expressed concern over the reports of serious human rights abuses in the Philippines, saying “the United States must hold its friends and allies to the same high standards it holds itself.”
Likewise, Bencosme stressed that “every time that we don’t speak out on the issue, it greenlights other abusers to continue to act with impunity.”
Amid the administration’s continued refusal to probe the killings under its watch, De Lima renewed her call for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to independently investigate the human rights abuses in the country.
“Today, I reiterate my call on the international community, notably the UNHRC, to conduct an independent investigation into the human rights abuses happening in the Philippines as the Duterte administration has continually defied calls for him to stop rampant killings under his war on drugs,” she tweeted.
According to De Lima, the increasing number of innocent children who died in the Duterte administration’s violent war on drugs should be a compelling reason for the UNHRC to send a fact-finding mission to the Philippines.