'Outrageous': Palace slams 'intrusive' US Senate resolution backing De Lima, Ressa


Posted at Dec 14 2019 06:38 PM

MANILA - Malacañang on Saturday slammed the resolution a US Senate committee recently passed calling for the release of detained Sen. Leila de Lima and the dropping of charges against Rappler boss Maria Ressa, saying it was "an undisguised and outrageous intrusion into a sovereign state."

"It is a brazen and heedless affront against the dignity not only of the Philippine Government but of our country’s sovereignty as well," Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

"There can be no excuse for the US Senate Committee not to know that the Philippines has long ceased to be a colony of the United States," he added, saying they are looking at the resolution "with grave concern."

US Senate Resolution No. 142 described De Lima as "a prisoner of conscience, detained solely on account of her political views and the legitimate exercise of her freedom of expression." It also described Ressa's past arrest as "part of a pattern of 'weaponizing the rule of law' to repress independent media."

De Lima is an outspoken opposition senator held on non-bailable drug charges filed against her for alleged involvement in the drug trade at the national penitentiary during her time as justice chief. She has denied the allegations, calling them political persecution.

Meanwhile, Ressa's news website is known for critical reporting on the administration. Regulators revoked its license to operate in January 2018, its reporters barred from covering the President, while libel and tax charges have been filed against Ressa, its reporters and other officials.

Panelo, in his statement, said the two women "are facing criminal prosecution due to transgression of Philippine laws" and are facing due process.

"Ressa was given provisional liberty by the hearing court while De Lima’s continued detention remains on account of the nature of the crime she is charged with and the court’s finding that the evidence against her is strong," he said.

"We reiterate that the cases against De Lima and Ressa have absolutely nothing to do with their political views on the Duterte Administration. The record shows that no one has been hailed to court on account of one’s exercise of the freedom of speech and of the press."

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

Philippine Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier told 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.

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