It took a meeting of parliamentarians in far-away St. Petersburg, Russia on Oct. 18, 2017, to help open the gates of world consciousness on Leila de Lima’s incarceration. That meeting was of the governing council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

What exactly is the IPU and why would it take a special interest on De Lima’s imprisonment? It is a global organization of national parliaments founded in 1889. Its primary purpose actually runs contrary to the Rodrigo Duterte brand of governance – to promote democratic governance, accountability and cooperation among its members. Since 1921, the IPU has been headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Take note, it is not an organization of individual parliamentarians like a Rotary Club; legislatures of 179 sovereign states are members.

On May 22-24, 2017, an IPU delegation came to the Philippines upon the invitation of the Congress of the Philippines. It used that occasion “to gather first-hand information on Senator de Lima’s situation from the parliamentary, government and judicial authorities.”

That October of 2017 in the cold and wet autumn of northwestern Russia was only eight months after De Lima was arrested, mugged shot, and place behind bars in Camp Crame. It is a warning to all creeping dictators that there is nothing hidden in this world. Unfortunately for Duterte, the IPU had complete information on how De Lima was being treated as prisoner of conscience.

Thus, the IPU governing council passed a special resolution named “PHI/08 – Leila de Lima” that summarized all dossiers it had only eight months after she was jailed. The IPU knew all the details of how her captors and the courts of law mistreated her. It even included how the legislature conducted hearings with speedy dispatch that started the ball rolling for a national vilification campaign against her. Duterte’s well-oiled troll battalions had all the feed for fake news.

For instance, the IPU knew the timing of the House investigations on the drug trading in Bilibid – it came only a week after De Lima launched her senate inquiry on the Duterte extrajudicial killings. What made the House so prompt as to defy Filipino time’s dilly-dallying? Until now it has not even passed the significant law to prohibit political dynasties. At what interest and by what price did it do Duterte’s bidding?

A side note is in order. As early as August 2016 (only a month after his presidency), Duterte said he kept a tape that shows De Lima saying she would prove that Duterte was connected to the Davao Death Squad. That agitated Duterte so much. By then he had already started his tag of De Lima as an “immoral woman” that would be zealously multiplied by the Duterte trolls.

The Duterte misogynism did not pass unnoticed by the IPU resolution. It said the tagging of her as immoral and guilty was being done by the “highest State authorities” even before her trial was to commence.

The IPU noted that just a week preceding the Russia meeting, the Philippine Supreme Court had dismissed De Lima’s motion to nullify her arrest for the case before Regional Trial Court 204. The SC also denied her motion for reconsideration for the non-bailable arrest warrant before RTC 205.

In May and September of 2017, the minority bloc in the Senate filed resolutions to allow the prisoner occasional furloughs. Then senate president Koko Pimentel visited her in jail and committed to supporting any request for furloughs subject to court approval. Nothing was heard from the Supreme Court. Nothing further was heard from the senate president either.

The IPU noted that in contrast, the so-called “Bilibid 19” convicts who have testified against De Lima have been given privileged prison treatment.

What exactly was her jail condition? The IPU noted that De Lima had no access to the internet. She was not allowed television or radio. It failed to include that she was also prohibited from using a mobile phone. Except for weekly visits by her family, she was almost completely incommunicado.

Her jailors were ordered by her personal doctor to install an air conditioning unit in her cell. Until this day, the Philippine National Police never complied. Meanwhile, convicts in Bilibid enjoy not only air conditioning but also their own luxury huts complete with cable television, internet and music video equipment.

The IPU also noted that on July 20, 2017, four members of the European Parliament called on Philippine authorities to guarantee De Lima a fair trial and allow her to fulfill her duties as senator, including voting in the senate. Despite having been visited by Pimentel, nothing came out of it and even participation by Zoom had never been allowed. “It regrets therefore that the Senate has not been able to take a firm stance in favour of Senator de Lima’s direct participation in the most important work of the Senate.”

The IPU went further by asking the Philippine government for a thorough investigation of the EJKs. Remember this was only six months after the complaint against Duterte was filed at the International Criminal Court.

The IPU said it would send an observer at De Lima’s court trials, “to monitor and report on respect for fair trial standards.”

Six years later, most of the witnesses who have testified against her have recanted. Some of the Bilibid convicts have reportedly died of “Covid.” But De Lima is still in jail. Every minute longer she spends in jail makes her the poster girl of a justice system gone wrong, to put it mildly. Many of us freedom-loving Filipinos certainly wish her well, but it is also right to consider her sacrifice and torment as bolstering the Rodrigo Duterte case at the ICC.

Now is the time for the Marcos Jr. government to clean itself of the damage before the world of Duterte’s “bottomless pit of impunity.” We must defy government when it fails that.

Leila de Lima is its litmus test.