After ex-senator Leila de Lima’s application for release on bail was rejected by a Philippine court on June 7, 2023, members of the European Union (EU) Parliament sent a letter to Philippine President Marcos and Secretary for Justice demanding her release as well as “reparations and an investigation into the circumstances that led to this unjust situation.” Opposition politician Leila de Lima was one of the most critical voices speaking out against the so-called “war on drugs” under former President Rodrigo Duterte. On the basis of three fabricated drug trafficking charges in Bilibid Prison, she has already been imprisoned for six years. Now the court in Muntinlupa, Metro Manila, which acquitted De Lima on her second charge, has jurisdiction over her remaining case. The next hearing of her evidence was scheduled for July 7, 2023.
Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch Philippines sees Leila de Lima’s detention as Marcos’ political weapon or leverage against Duterte. But according to political scientist Maria Ela Atienza, her release could also improve Marcos’ international image in terms of press freedom, opposition freedom and human rights.
EU lawmakers underlined the weight of De Lima’s case in relation to the benefits of the EU-Philippines Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) trade agreement. GSP+ benefits include export benefits that provide duty-free access for about 6,200 local products. At the end of 2023, the GSP+ trade preferences will expire. By then, the Marcos government will have to negotiate the renewal. As early as May 2023, EU parliamentarians warned that the Philippines could lose its trade preferences under the GSP+ if it continued to engage in human rights abuses. The Philippine Department of Trade has recently expressed optimism that EU trade preferences will be re-awarded as the EU recognises “improvements” regarding the human rights situation in the Philippines.
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