Int'l legislators: Free De Lima unless strong evidence is 'rapidly forthcoming'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 29) — A global group of parliaments said it is "deeply concerned" that Senator Leila de Lima remains in pre-trial detention a year after she was arrested.

The Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) adopted a resolution March 28 following its 138th General Assembly where they reiterated the call to release De Lima immediately and drop all charges relating to her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade "unless serious evidence is rapidly forthcoming."

It claimed De Lima has been subjected to intimidation and denigration, including by President Rodrigo Duterte. The IPU said the continued vilification of the Senator is shocking, as it portrays her as an "immoral woman" and guilty when a trial has yet to happen.

Despite spending more than a year in detention, the IPU said the senator has not been arraigned for any of the charges against her.

Should the charges against De Lima proceed, the IPU said it would send an observer to monitor on "respect for fair trail standards in the cases."

De Lima, a staunch critic of President Duterte, is facing charges for her alleged involvement in the New Bilibid Prisons illegal drug trade. She was arrested February 2017 and remains in detention at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City. 

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo refuted the IPU's claim of the Duterte administration being unfair to the lawmaker.

In a statement Thursday, Panelo said the group was ignorant on how the country's justice system worked.

"A Judge of a court of competent jurisdiction issued a warrant for her arrest after a judicious determination of the existence of  a probable cause for a drug related case filed against her. No one is above the law. Her being a Senator cannot shield her from the majesty of the law," he said.

Panelo also described IPU's call to have the Senate allow De Lima to participate in Senate deliberations "an outright and outrageous intrusion into the internal affairs of the state as well as an affront to our sovereignty."

This was not the first time the Geneva-based group commented on the detained senator's case.

The Senator was visited by members of the IPU's human rights committee in May and said it would send an observer to her trial.

This did not sit well with Malacañang and called it a "classic example of bullying."

CNN Philippines' Pia Garcia and Eimor Santos contributed to this report.