Not the Nobel Prize

It’s not like it’s the Nobel Peace Prize or anything important like that. It’s more like, if you feel you’ve done such a great job, you pat yourself on the back.

Detained Senator Leila de Lima has been given the “highest human rights honor” by a group called Liberal International. According to a press release from the organization, “[p]oliticians from around the world voted to award Liberal International’s highest human rights honor—the Prize for Freedom—to imprisoned Philippines political prisoner, Senator Leila de Lima.”

“Leila De Lima has been a flag-bearer for human rights in the Philippines and beyond, setting a shining example for other human rights defenders,” said the chairman of the LI’s Human Rights Committee, Markus Löning, a retired German politician who visited De Lima in jail last July. “Even from inside the prison she keeps fighting for the rule of law and the dignity of individuals.” 

According to the LI Web site, De Lima’s Liberal Party has been a member of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), which is LI’s regional organization, since 1989. The last Filipino to receive the group’s award for human rights was President Corazon Aquino, who received it in 1987.

Apart from CALD, another of LI’s partner organizations is the Freidrich Neumann Foundation (FNF), which sponsored the trip of Vice President Leni Robredo to Cape Town, South Africa last April. That trip was described as a huge junket of the LP, attended by all leaders of the party led by Robredo and Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan.

So it was really a case of the friends, funders and enablers of the political opposition abroad giving more moral support to De Lima, who is detained in Camp Crame on non-bailable drug charges. If there is any further doubt about this, the press release about the awarding, which was widely reported by media outlets believed to be sympathetic to De Lima’s cause, explains why she was chosen:

“Senator De Lima, a vocal and ardent critic [of] the Philippines’ authoritarian president Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called ‘war of drugs’, has been held in pre-trial detention on politically motivated charges since February 2017,” LI said. “She should immediately be released from... detention.”

Note the words “authoritarian,” “so-called war” and “politically motivated” to understand the political underpinnings of the award. Note further that the real objective of LI is the release of De Lima, something that no Liberal politician, foreign or local, has the authority to demand, since De Lima’s case is really up to the courts to decide.

Of course, I understand that it’s been a really slow news week, what with the All Souls holidays and all. But don’t believe for one second that De Lima is suddenly being hailed as a human rights heroine by the entire world.

I’m sure that the United Nations, the Philippine Supreme Court, rights lawyer Amal Clooney and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will have something to say about De Lima’s record as a protector of human rights. It was De Lima, after all, who ignored a Supreme Court order allowing Arroyo to leave for medical treatment abroad, a rights violation so egregious that a UN body denounced her and the Aquino administration for after Clooney took up her cause with the international organization.

I don’t really know what De Lima’s human rights track record is, even taking into consideration her uneventful stint as chairman of the Commission on Human Rights during the term of Arroyo, whose rights De Lima trampled upon so blithely as soon as she was employed by Gloria’s successor. All I know is she’s now in jail because she stands accused of allowing the proliferation of the illegal drug trade as justice secretary, using the New Bilibid Prisons as its clandestine headquarters.

De Lima’s award is just more Liberal propaganda. Considering the giver of the award, it’s not even real news.

* * *

Speaking of fake news, an item I reported in this space earlier this week—about US President Donald Trump calling Philippine Senator Antonio Trillanes a “little narco”—has taken a life of its own. A newspaper, which together with its tabloid affiliate first reported the same event, ran a statement by Trillanes to the effect that the story was fake news.

But the Trillanes statement on the report picked up by Pilipino Star Ngayon columnist Al Pedroche and Philippine Star pundit Mary Ann Reyes put the blame on social media, instead of identifying these mainstream outlets as the original source. While Trillanes identified RJ Nieto, of the wildly popular Thinking Pinoy blog, as the source, the Star said it was originally published in a satire site, The Adobo Chronicles.

(PSN took down the Pedroche column from its Web site without any explanation after it was already published in the print edition. But Reyes’ column was allowed to stand.)

A perplexed Nieto came out with the definitive timeline on the brouhaha in a blog post, while the owner of Adobo demanded an apology and a retraction from the Star. Trillanes just came out of the incident looking like a bully who did not want to criticize the original mainstream source of the report—whose veracity no one really knows right now. 

Maybe someone will ask Trump himself when he visits Manila this month. Or maybe not.


Topics: LI Web site , De Lima , Trillanes

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