'Respect' each other's policies, Palace says after US sanctions officials threatening journos


Posted at Dec 30 2020 05:41 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte chats with US President Donald Trump during the gala dinner hosted by the Philippines for the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states and dialogue partners at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City on Nov. 12, 2017. Karl Norman Alonzo, Malacanang Photo/File

MANILA — States "must learn to respect each other’s domestic policies," Malacañang said on Wednesday, after the US approved sanctions for other governments' officials who threaten or wrongfully imprison journalists including Maria Ressa of Rappler, which has reported extensively on President Rodrigo Duterte's deadly war on drugs.

US President Donald Trump on Monday signed a $2.3 trillion pandemic aid and spending law that also denies entry into the United States of "foreign government officials involved in threatening, wrongfully imprisoning, or otherwise depriving of liberty independent journalists who speak out or publish about official corruption or other abuses."

An explanatory statement of the law specifically identified Ressa, a U.S.-Filipino dual citizen, and El Salvador's El Faro, a digital newspaper in Latin America.

The Philippine government "respect[s] the sovereignty, independence and equality of the United States," said Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque.

"Consistent with this position, we have our own independent institutions and domestic laws that must be enforced and applied to all," he said in a statement.

"Each must learn to respect each other’s domestic policies and intrusion to another nation’s sovereignty must be frowned upon," he added.

This basic principle of international law "is based on the United Nations Charter which declares, 'The organization and its members shall act based on principle of sovereign equality of its member,'" said Roque. 

Ressa was convicted this year of cyberlibel and is facing 8 other criminal cases, which she described as pressure from the government against her news organization and an attack on press freedom over their critical reporting on the administration's anti-narcotics drive and other alleged irregularities.

Ressa, Foreign Press Association's 2020 Journalist of the Year and Time Person of the Year in 2018, was supposed to travel to the United States on Dec. 19 and return to the Philippines by January to spend the holidays with her ailing mother abroad.

But the Court of Appeals denied her bid to leave the country despite 4 other courts allowing her to do so.

Five US senators last year called for the dropping of charges against Ressa. Malacañang told them to "mind their own business." 

The Palace had also denied Duterte's involvement in Ressa's legal fight. 

"We have repeatedly said that we have never and we'll never interfere with the function of the judiciary as well as the other branch," said the President's chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo. 

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