Former Senate President Frank Drilon was designated by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a worldwide organization of parliamentarians, as its representative and observer in next week's trial of Cambodian opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Mu Soncha who is facing a defamation suit filed by strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Drilon was informed of his designation by Anders Johnson, IPU secretary general, and Ingeborg Schwarz, secretary of the IPU Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians, who said IPU was closely monitoring the celebrated trial of Mu Soncha, a member of the Cambodian National Assembly and a known advocate of women and children's rights.
Mu Soncha, a one-time Nobel Prize nominee and a former Minister of Women Affairs, was in the forefront of the campiagn against the sex and human trafficking trade in Cambodia and was vocal against the Hun Sen government's alleged failure to crackdown on offenders.
She will to undergo trial Friday in Phnom Penh on a defamation countersuit filed by Hun Sen in retaliation to an earlier suit she filed against the prime minister. The case against Hun Sen was earlier dismissed by the courts.
Mu Soncha claimed the courts were biased and that no lawyer in Cambodia was courageous enough to represent for fear of reprisal from government. "I intend to put the (Cambodian) justice system on trial," she was quoted as saying recently.
Phay Siphan, a Cambodian government spokesman, dismissed Mu Soncha's claims that the courts were biased. But the accusations have gained traction among international human rights groups, as well as donor countries, which pledged almost US$1 billion in foreign aid to Cambodian last year.
Reports said the Cambodian government launched at least nine criminal lawsuits against politicians, journalists and activists recently. Critics such as Human Rights Watch accuse the ruling Cambodia People's Party of using the legal system to silence opposition voices.
Johnson and Ingeborg informed Drilon that he was chosen as IPU trial observer and representative in his capacity as former chairman of the IPU Human Rights for Parliementarians Committee and as a former justice secretary in the Philippines.
In July 2006, Drilon was elected chairman of the IPU committee, a prestigious international body that investigates violations of human rights of lawmakers. He is the first Filipino legislator to be elected to the position since the IPU was established in 1889.
The IPU, the oldest multilateral political organization, brings together 146 affiliated parliaments and seven associated regional assemblies. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland. It serves as a Permanent Observer at the United Nations. The IPU Committee of Human Rights of Parliamentarians was established in 1976 and was created to ensure that the human rights of the world's parliamentary community - composed of more than 40,000 members - are respected.
In 2005 Drilon was elected assembly president of the 112th General Assembly which was held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Manila and was attended by over 1,500 parliamentarians from over 45 countries. Prior to his election as president of the IPU assembly, Drilon was also a member of the IPU Executive Committee.