MANILA - International human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin-Clooney on Tuesday urged the Philippine government to protect the free press and honor its international commitments on human rights.
Speaking before Philippine business leaders in an online forum, Clooney said, "if you want to have a functioning democracy, protect the press. To protect the press, don't imprison the journalists for their work."
Until recently, the Philippines was considered by many "to have the freest press in Asia," she said.
Clooney noted the Philippines is one of Asia's oldest democracies and was a founding member of the United Nations. Likewise, the country has ratified more international human rights treaties than any other country in the region.
"I hope that the Philippines will take steps to honor its international commitments and that future leaders will consider that they have nothing to fear from the ICC (International Criminal Court)," Clooney said.
"Do honor international treaties that the Philippines itself played a part in drafting."
The ICC has been investigating alleged human rights violations of the Duterte administration, particularly those perpetrated in the country's brutal drug war.
However, President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies have repeatedly insisted that the court has no jurisdiction over the Philippines, and that the investigation is an affront to the country's sovereignty.
The administration had instigated the country's withdrawal from the ICC amid the probe.
Clooney, who represents beleaguered Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, also noted that "Asian leaders who are strongmen are not [even] able to contain the COVID-19 spread."
"Silencing dissent is a sign of weakness."
Ressa, who is CEO of online news platform Rappler, faces at least 11 complaints, most of which were filed by the Duterte's allies.
She earlier argued the cases stem from her outlet's critical news coverage of the Philippine government.