Palace tells US senators backing De Lima, Ressa to 'mind their own business'


Posted at Apr 08 2019 11:48 AM | Updated as of Apr 08 2019 11:52 AM

MANILA - Five US senators who called for the release of Sen. Leila de Lima and the dropping of charges against Rappler boss Maria Ressa should focus on their country's own affairs, Malacañang said Monday. 

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

The lawmakers should "mind their own business -- their country has enough problems and they should focus on them," said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo. 

"The Republic of the Philippines is not under the dominion of the United States of America or any of its high-ranking officialls," he said in a statement. 

"The US senators' resort to a reckless and unstudied political exercise only highlights their unfamiliarity with the domestic matters of our country as well as their disrespect to the clamor of the Filipino people for law and order," he added. 
The cases against De Lima and Ressa "passed through administrative and judicial processes before their respective warrants of arrest have been issued by courts," said the Palace official. 

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.

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

"Their association with the political opposition is no exempting circumstance to shield them from criminal prosecution. In this country no one is above the law," said Panelo. 

The US senators' concern about the deaths of drug suspects under Duterte has been repeatedly addressed as a consequence of their resistance against lawmen or rivalry and botched deals among narcotics rings, he added. 

The killings "are absolutely not state initiated or state-sponsored, proof of which is the death of scores of policemen and serious injuries to hundreds of others," he said.