Arroyo proposal to quit parliamentarians' union draws flak

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 23 2018 01:22 PM | Updated as of Oct 23 2018 11:23 PM

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MANILA - Several lawmakers on Tuesday criticized House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's suggestion for the Philippines to withdraw from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) due to its supposed interference in local judicial processes.

The IPU last week adopted 2 resolutions slamming the Philippine government for the alleged political persecution of opposition senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes IV.

Arroyo, an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, urged the Senate on Monday to withdraw from the IPU, just days after leading the Philippine delegation in its 139th assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Speaker and other Congress leaders "should not be so onion skinned" and instead show that Filipino lawmakers are free to express their opinions and are not being silenced by the government, said Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate.

"We will definitely oppose Speaker Arroyo's proposal and we trust that the Senate would not bow down to her wishes," he said in a statement.

Akbayan Party-list Rep. Tom Villarin warned that leaving the IPU would be a diplomatic disaster and would derogate Manila's standing in international bodies.

"It’s inimical to our country’s best interests to shun away from such collective body where all are equal. Rather than stand up to say we can do better, it shrinks from responsibility like a spoiled brat. Shame!" said Villarin in a separate statement.

Duterte, he noted, has also threatened to leave the United Nations after expressing concern over his anti-narcotics drive, as well as the International Criminal Court, which is investigating alleged crimes against humanity under the campaign.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who was with Arroyo in last week's IPU assembly, urged the Speaker to "mind her own and we (senators) will mind our own."

"Arroyo’s proposal is despairing, defeatist and will be seen by the world as a tacit admission that indeed critical lawmakers are being persecuted under the Duterte administration," he said.

"It is folly for Speaker Arroyo to suggest that the IPU should be punished for performing its mandate to protect fellow members of the legislature from abusive and over-reaching tendencies of certain officials of the executive."

Drilon was a former chairman of the IPU Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians.

He was an ally of Arroyo when she was still president. But he joined the opposition after allegations that Arroyo attempted to rig the 2004 elections.

Arroyo on Monday told reporters that the IPU has interfered with Philippine judicial processes twice.

A fact-finding mission of the IPU last year concluded that there was no evidence to justify De Lima's detention on drug charges. The organization of national parliaments from around the world has since called for the senator's release.

In its latest resolutions, the IPU urged the Senate to act in solidarity with De Lima and the Supreme Court to grant her occasional "legislative furlough."

The IPU also requested Philippine authorities to explain the factual and legal grounds of Duterte's move to withdraw the amnesty absolving Trillanes of charges over his 2 failed mutinies against Arroyo.

Report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News