Several US senators seek De Lima release, dropping of raps vs Ressa, Rappler

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 06 2019 06:20 PM

MANILA - Several United States senators called on the Philippine government to release Sen. Leila de Lima from her 2-year detention and to drop charges against news website Rappler and its chief Maria Ressa.

In a resolution released Friday, US Senators Marco Rubio, Edward Markey, Richard Durbin, Marsha Blackburn, and Chris Coons condemned the arrest of human rights defenders and political leaders.

De Lima is a "prisoner of conscience, detained solely on account of her political views and the legitimate exercise of her freedom of expression," the senators said.

Last month, six US lawmakers filed a resolution calling for the Philippine senator's release.

De Lima, a fierce critic of the administration's bloody anti-narcotics campaign, has been detained since February 2017 for allegedly pocketing drug payoffs from convicted crime lords at the national penitentiary when she was still justice secretary. She denied wrongdoing.

The senators also urged government to "guarantee the right to the freedom of the press" and to drop charges against news website Rappler and its CEO, Maria Ressa.

They called the arrest and proceedings against Rappler and Ressa as "unjustified."

Ressa and Rappler, known for critical reportage on the administration, are facing several cases including libel and tax-related charges.

The senators also condemned the administration's "role in state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings by police and other armed individuals" under the drug war.

The Philippine government has repeatedly denied involvement in summary killings, saying some 5,000 drug suspects slain in police anti-drug operations had put up violent resistance.