MANILA – The US Senate passed on Thursday passed a resolution calling on President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on Philippine government officials who are supposedly behind the detention of Sen. Leila de Lima.
Senate Resolution 142, which condemns the continued detention of Sen. Leila de Lima and the supposed harassment of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, was marked “Agreed to in Senate,” based on the bill tracker website of the US Congress.
This was confirmed by the office of De Lima, citing a source from a US senator’s office.
Agreement or adoption for resolutions is the counterpart of passing bills and joint resolutions in the US Congress.
The resolution, introduced by US Senator Edward Markey (Massachusetts) in April last year was placed on the legislative calendar on December 17, 2019.
It called for De Lima’s immediate release, calling her a “prisoner of conscience, detained solely on account of her political views and the legitimate exercise of her freedom of expression” and for Trump to impose Magnitsky sanctions on Philippine government officials behind her arrest and detention.
The Global Magnitsky Act authorizes the US government to sanction those who it sees as human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the US.
A separate amendment to the State and Foreign Operations Bill of the US 2020 budget directing the US State Department to impose the Magnitsky sanctions on De Lima jailers was sponsored by US Senators Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy. Trump signed the US 2020 budget into law in December last year.
Markey, Durbin and Leahy were barred from entering the Philippines by Malacanang, in response to their calls for De Lima’s release.
Earlier on the same day, Durbin, who co-sponsored the Senate resolution, spoke on the Senate floor to call for De Lima’s release and an end to threats from the Philippine government to introduce visa restrictions on Americans travelling to the Philippines.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESOLUTION
The Senate resolution expresses the sentiments of US senators with respect to De Lima’s situation but is not binding as law.
In passing Resolution 142, the US Senate "makes clear that the Duterte government must end its human rights abuses," Markey said in a statement.
The move also condemns the Duterte government's "troubling behavior and democratic backsliding," said Durbin.
The Duterte administration recently barred Markey, Leahy and Durbin from the Philippines.
A separate resolution is pending in the US House of Representatives introduced by 6 US lawmakers--Jackie Speier, James Mc Govern, Henry Johnson, Jamie Raskin, Brad Sherman and Lloyd Doggett.
House Resolution 233 also condemns De Lima’s imprisonment and calls for the Philippine government to release her.