Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed elation over the filing of a resolution at the US House of Representatives calling for her immediate release from her more than two years of unjust detention over trumped-up illegal drug trade charges.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, said she is thankful to the six members of the US Congress for underscoring the importance of respecting her rights not only as a senator but also as a human rights defender.
“I feel humbled and surprised to learn that despite being thousands of miles away from me, these honorable lawmakers did not fail to make me feel that they are fighting with me and for me,” she said.
“I am beyond thankful not only for their concerns about my personal and work conditions but also about the plight of human rights defenders who are persecuted for fighting human rights abuses in the government’s war on drugs,” she added.
Last March 14, US California Rep. Jackie Speier introduced House Resolution 233 “[c]ondemning the Government of the Philippines for its continued detention of Senator Leila de Lima, calling for her immediate release, and for other purposes.”
It was co-sponsored by US Reps. James P. McGovern of Massachusetts, Henry C. Johnson of Georgia, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Brad Sherman of California, and Lloyd Doggett of Texas. It was referred to the US House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In their five-page resolution, the US lawmakers urged “the Philippine government to immediately release De Lima and drop all charges against her, remove restrictions on her personal and work conditions, and allow her to fully discharge her legislative mandate.”
Calling De Lima as a “prisoner of conscience,” the lawmakers affirmed their belief that the former justice secretary was detained solely for her political views and her legitimate exercise of her freedom of expression.
De Lima said she hopes that the overwhelming outpouring of calls for her immediate release would send a strong message straight to Mr. Duterte and his minions that they should finally respect the rule of law and value human rights.
“Duterte should think twice about abusing his power to silence dissents and persecute his political enemies because the day of reckoning will come soon. He surely cannot escape global condemnation and justice,” she said.
“The recent call of these honorable American lawmakers for my freedom from unjust and illegal detention should be enough to remind Mr. Duterte that the world is indeed watching, and he should start doing what is right,” she added.
Several international organizations and human rights leaders and advocates have repeatedly called for De Lima’s freedom as they noted that no strong or credible evidence has been ever presented to pin her down from trumped-up charges of illegal drug trading. These groups include the European Parliament, Canadian Parliament, Australian Parliament, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Inter-Parliamentary Union, Amnesty International, Liberal International, Human Rights Watch, Parliamentarians for Global Action, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights.