House debates

Monday, 18 February 2019

Private Members' Business

Senator Leila De Lima

6:41 pm

Photo of Chris HayesChris Hayes (Fowler, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I seek leave to make an additional contribution.

Leave granted.

I thank the member for Goldstein for his contribution. The case of Senator de Lima is a clear example of what happens when a government seeks to circumvent the rule of law. In emphasising that, the evidence against Senator de Lima consists of untested statements by convicted drug lords, police officers and prison officials. Therefore, I believe it's important that we put Senator de Lima's situation into context.

As Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, Senator de Lima investigated extrajudicial killings carried out by the Davao death squad in Davao City under the leadership of then Mayor Duterte. As secretary of justice, Senator de Lima was responsible for putting a former president and three senators behind bars and subjecting several other congressmen to criminal charges associated with corruption. Senator de Lima also authorised the raid of Bilibid prison in an effort to target a drug network that existed within that facility.

In 2016 Senator de Lima filed a motion in her parliament to conduct investigations into the extrajudicial killings that were taking place under the newly-elected President Duterte's drug policy. This was the tipping point that led to her removal as chair of the Senate committee and subjected her to trumped up charges of trading in illegal drugs, although they were subsequently changed to charges of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading—the latter causing her incarceration. Clearly, if the police are given impunity for killing people on the basis of mere suspicion to appease the president's policy, I'm sure for those in authority making a false statement would be far less onerous and, therefore, easily forthcoming.

This is what happens when you set aside the rule of law. As the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention reasoned, 'there is no explanation for this other than her exercise of the right to express such views and convictions as a human rights defender'. While it's important for leaders to show commitment where there are threats to the wellbeing of the community, such as a drug epidemic, nevertheless, actions should be proportionate, be evidence based, incorporate appropriate oversight and, most importantly, be compliant with the rule of law.

Surely an attack on human rights is an attack on our collective humanity. We must never remain silent when human rights are being attacked. Silence only encourages those who seek to undermine the human rights principles, structure and democratic institutions that underpin our societies and allow for the creation of strong and inclusive communities.

It's for this reason that we as parliamentarians and concerned members of the international community cannot afford to remain silent in the face of blatant attacks on systems of justice and really, for that matter, the rule of law itself. I reiterate my call on the Australian government to use all its diplomatic measures to urge the Philippines government to immediately release Senator De Lima and ensure that any subsequent trials that she has to face are conducted in a fair and transparent manner, consistent with the rule of law and subject to appropriate international oversight.

I believe for those of us of goodwill it is important that we work together with our neighbouring nations to ensure respect for the rule of law. What we must appreciate is that, when the rule of law is being sidelined, we are going to see the curtailment of human rights as an inevitable result. As Desmond Tutu once said, if you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

Debate adjourned.


Andrew Fenton
Posted on 26 Mar 2019 3:54 pm

I find this speech very misleading. I am very surprised the ALP would support a corrupt Liberal government under the leadership of Noy Noy Aquino. Its a known secret in the Philippines that DeLima was not only supporting drug lords in the Filipino jails but she was directly profiting from their ongoing activites. How the ALP supports De Lima is beyond me. I have lived in the Philippines the last 3 years and know that its a different story living there. Under De Lima drug addicts were able to rape, steal and violate citizens at will. Every couple of days children's bodies were floating down stream from these addicts. This was all done under De Lima and the Liberal government. Please do your research your speech suggests you agree the drug addicts and drug lords have rights. They don't and praise President Duterte efforts in making the streets safer. The President has said on numerous occasions stop taking drugs and the war on drugs end.