Philippines rejects European Parliament's call on senator

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine government on Friday rejected a call by the European Parliament for the release of Sen. Leila de Lima, a leading critic of the president who has been detained on drug charges, and told the international community to refrain from influencing her case.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said a European Parliament resolution calling for de Lima's release "casts aspersion on Philippine legal processes, its judicial system."

"The pillars of the criminal justice system remain to be effective and well-functioning in the Philippines, not only for Sen. de Lima but for all," it said in a statement. "The case is pending before the proper Philippine courts and the Philippine government will allow the legal process to proceed accordingly."

De Lima said she was elated "that the international community is closely monitoring the trumped-up charges brought up against me." She called on President Rodrigo Duterte's administration to heed the call.

De Lima is a former top human rights official and vocal critic of Duterte's brutal crackdown on illegal drugs. She was arrested last month on charges she received bribes from detained drug lords when she served as justice secretary under Duterte's predecessor.

She has vehemently denied the charges, which she said are part of efforts by Duterte and his officials to muzzle critics of his anti-drug crackdown, which has left thousands of mostly poor drug suspects dead. Western governments, along with EU and U.N. officials, have expressed alarm over the crackdown.

When de Lima headed the government's Commission on Human Rights, she tried unsuccessfully to have Duterte prosecuted when he was mayor of Davao city for unlawful deaths in a similar crackdown on illegal drugs he had launched there. However, no witnesses came forward to testify against him.

Duterte expanded the crackdown nationwide after becoming president last June, and de Lima continued to criticize him after winning a Senate seat last year. Duterte has denied condoning extrajudicial killings, although he has repeatedly threatened drug suspects with death in public speeches.

The European Parliament strongly condemned "the many extrajudicial killings" under Duterte's crackdown and urged his government "to prioritize the fight against trafficking networks and drug barons over tracking down small-scale consumers."

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