US Senate committee passes resolution backing De Lima, Ressa

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 12 2019 10:47 AM | Updated as of Dec 13 2019 05:35 AM

MANILA (3rd UPDATE)—A US Senate committee has passed a resolution calling for the release of Sen. Leila de Lima and the dropping of charges against Rappler boss Maria Ressa, its proponents said Tuesday.

De Lima, who was arrested on drug charges in February 2017, is "a prisoner of conscience, detained solely on account of her political views and the legitimate exercise of her freedom of expression," claimed US Senate Resolution 142.

Quoting rights observers, it also dubbed the arrest of Ressa for libel and tax-related charges as "part of a pattern of 'weaponizing the rule of law' to repress independent media."

The resolution called on the Philippine government to "drop all charges" against Ressa and De Lima, and allow the senator to "fully discharge her legislative mandate, especially as Chair of the [Philippine Senate] Committee on Social Justice."

It also called on US President Donald Trump to "impose sanctions" against security forces and officials responsible for De Lima's arrest.

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the resolution, said 2 of its 5 proponents, US Senators Edward Markey and Richard Durbin, on Twitter.

The move "demonstrates broad support for accountability" in De Lima's case, whose crime is "standing for human rights and good governance in the Philippines," said Markey.

The resolution was also submitted by US Senators Marco Rubio, Marsha Blackburn and Chris Coons.

'ULTIMATELY UNHELPFUL'

The Philippine Embassy in Washington described the US Senate resolution as "ultimately unhelpful," saying it could be interpreted as posing undue interference in the Manila's affairs.

"It calls on the Philippine Government to pursue actions that undermine the rule of law, which is the very principle that the United States professes to uphold and stand for," it said in a statement.

The embassy maintained that the cases involving De Lima and Ressa "are being handled in accordance with Philippine laws and processes."

"We remain open to engaging with US lawmakers and other stakeholders on this matter," it added.

Philippine Senate President Vicente Sotto III has reminded American lawmakers that the country is no longer a colony of the United States.

“We are a sovereign nation. We have our own judicial processes,” Sotto said in a statement.

“Sovereign states have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide the violation of their own laws. We are not a colony anymore,” he said.

'MIND OWN BUSINESS'

Malacañang earlier told the US lawmakers to "mind their own business -- their country has enough problems and they should focus on them."

"The Republic of the Philippines is not under the dominion of the United States of America or any of its high-ranking officials," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in April.

"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.

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