Filipino Senator Leila de Lima, an outspoken critic of populist President Rodrigo Duterte, has been in jail since February, but that has not stopped her crusade to draw attention to what she calls "flagrant" rights abuses. the government in Manila.
Ferdie Maglalang, a member of the Senator's team, was in Washington this week to gather support for his cause and the need for greater external pressure on the Duterte government.
"What we really need is an influential US senator or congressman to talk about the worsening of the human rights situation in the Philippines and about the plight of the Senator of Lima herself," Maglalang said in an interview on Wednesday.
While Amnesty International, based in London, called Ms. Lima's incarceration "a blatant attempt" to "silence" a critic of Duterte and divert attention from the government's brutal crackdown on drug traffickers. illegal drugs, the senator's case has only received scant attention from the US. UU despite dragging for months without trial.
Mr. Maglalang and other staff members are having a lot of meetings at the Capitol this week after attending an event in Foreign Policy magazine, which included Ms. De Lima, for the second year in a row, on her "Global" list. Thinkers. "
President Trump made headlines in a visit to the Philippines last month by avoiding any mention of human rights or Mr. Duterte's drug war, despite strong criticism of the campaign during President Obama's final months in office. The charge.
After a triumph – A meeting of Duterte, the White House said that human rights had emerged "briefly." But The Associated Press reported that a summary presented by a spokesman for Duterte maintained that "no mention of human rights" was made at the meeting.
Mr. Maglalang told The Washington Times on Wednesday he had no interest in criticizing Mr. Trump or his visit to Manila. "We believe that the United States has a positive impact in addressing the human rights situation in the Philippines," he said.
But Mr. Duterte's tactics in the war on drugs have alarmed human rights defenders, who say he has allowed the Philippine police and armed vigilantes to ignore due process and take justice into their own hands. Official figures show that more than 3,000 people, mostly drug users and merchants, have died. But human rights groups ranked the victim much higher, perhaps as high as 12,000.
Mr. Maglalang said he believes the actual figure is likely to be around 10,000. But he said an equally disturbing factor is the government's attempt to silence civil society and political opposition figures who have spoken out against "these extrajudicial executions."
Mr. Duterte, meanwhile, seems to have encouraged violent vigilantism by presuming that he has personally murdered suspected criminals in the past.
Mrs. Lima has long been one of its main critics. As a former justice minister, she spent years investigating the presumed connection of the president to a "death squad" when he was mayor of a city in the southern Philippines.
The senator claims that Mr. Duterte began to seek reprisals against her when he became president. launching biting personal attacks launched. He claimed at one point his research about his past and his policy of war on drugs was motivated by a sexual relationship he once had with his driver, a man Mr. Duterte says he took money from the drug lords.
But Mrs. Lima has refused to give in, accusing Mr. Duterte of supervising the "massacre of civilians".
"This is what happens when a sociopath takes the reins of government in an important developing country of the world," the senator said at one point last year.
The government in February accused Ms. de Lima of being a drug dealer. While the government more recently changed charges of conspiracy to trade drugs, the legislator has languished in prison for the past 10 months.
"It is an example of political persecution because it has been very eloquent against President Duterte's policy," he said. Maglalang said on Wednesday.
Mrs. de Lima "has maintained her innocence from the first day and does not give up," he added.
"She is a democratically elected legislator and an advocate of freedom," Maglalang said. "… She is a prisoner of conscience."
"We admire the United States," he said. "Someone in the United States, a beacon of freedom and justice, should talk about this"