Palace calls int'l group's plan to monitor De Lima trial 'bullying'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 21) — The planned visit of foreign lawmakers to monitor the trial of detained Senator Leila de Lima is a "classic example of bullying," Malacañang said Saturday.

"We should stand up to this kind of meddling into our domestic affairs. Their intent is not to merely observe De Lima's trial by our laws, but to meddle in our democratic as well as judicial processes," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a global group of parliaments based in Geneva, Switzerland, is sending an observer to the hearings of De Lima's drug charges.

The IPU was established in 1889 to promote peace and strengthen representative democracies. It has 173 members, including the Philippine Congress.

It adopted on October 18 the recommendations of its human rights committee, which visited De Lima last May. She has been detained without bail at Philippine National Police Custodial Center since February 24.

Among the IPU's decisions was "to send a trial observer to monitor and report on respect for fair trial standards in the case before (Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court) Branch 205, should the trial proceed."

De Lima's arraignment, where she will be asked to enter a guilty or not guilty plea, is scheduled on November 24.

De Lima on Friday welcomed the IPU's plan.

"Despite the Duterte administration's obvious effort to intimidate and silence me through my continued unjust detention, I am grateful that the Inter-Parliamentary Union vows to fight for my right to fair trial," she said.

Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz of Branch 205 issued a second arrest warrant against De Lima on June 23 for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, along with her aide, Jose Adrian Dera.

Dera is accused of extorting money and vehicles from alleged drug lord Peter Co, a high-profile inmate of the New Bilibid Prison, for De Lima's senatorial bid in the May 2016 elections.

Co supposedly sold illegal drugs and gave De Lima P3 million in proceeds as well as four vehicles all through Dera.

De Lima, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, has repeatedly denied involvement in the illegal drug trade.  She claims to be a victim of political persecution.

The IPU, along with other international groups such as the European Union, has been calling for the immediate release of De Lima. 

The Supreme Court earlier dismissed De Lima's petition to nullify her arrest, citing lack of merit.

READ: Supreme Court dismisses De Lima's petition to nullify arrest on drug charges

De Lima said she is set to appeal the decision, but does not expect to be freed anytime soon, saying her "prosecutors remain in power."

De Lima is also facing a disobedience to summons case for skipping hearings in the House of Representatives on the Bilibid drug trade and for urging her former bodyguard Ronnie Dayan to do the same. In March, she  refused to enter a plea in the case before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court. The judge entered a not guilty plea for her.