De Lima grateful over US resolution calling for her release

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has thanked five members of the United States (US) Senate for their concern over the human rights situation in the Philippines and for calling for her release from illegal detention over trumped-up drug charges.

De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, said she greatly appreciates the time they devoted in examining the situation in the country and in calling out the political persecution she is subjected to under the Duterte regime.

“I express my deepest gratitude to the five honorable members of the US Senate not only for calling out the political persecution I have to endure under the present administration but also the human rights abuses in the country,” she said.

“I am both humbled and thankful for their concerns not just for my plight but for the protection of human rights, democracy, rule of law and political freedom in the Philippines where the culture of fear and impunity reign,” she added.

Last April 4, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) filed a bipartisan resolution, logged as Senate Resolution 142, condemning the ongoing human rights abuses in the country, including the persecution of human rights defenders and detention of political prisoners like De Lima.

SR 142, which was also supported by US Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Chris Coons (D-DE), called on the Philippine government “to immediately release Senator De Lima, drop all charges against her, [and] remove restrictions on her personal and work conditions.”

Aside from urging the Philippine government to allow human rights defenders to “operate freely without fear of reprisal,” the six-page resolution also pressed the Duterte administration to value press freedom and drop all the charges against online news media Rappler and its chief executive officer Maria Ressa.

“The Duterte government [c]ontinues to chip away at respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights. This bipartisan resolution condemns their government’s troubling behavior and calls for the release of political prisoners, including Senator de Lima, and journalists who have been imprisoned under bogus charges,” Durbin said.

Markey, on his part, lamented how “the Duterte government is turning the law against the very voices promoting the rights of the Philippine people” instead of working to hold human rights offenders accountable for their crimes.

De Lima, a former justice secretary, said she continues to see the support she is receiving from different organizations and personalities as a “great source of hope” which drives her to remain steadfast in lending her voice to the causes of human rights.

“Amid the vilification before the whole world by the most powerful official in the Philippines, I stand here fighting, knowing that there are still many out there who believe in me and my causes,” she said.

“Criticisms over the support I’m getting from the international community, much less the US Senate, will never remove the fact that the five senators and other foreign dignitaries before them are speaking in behalf of all the unjustly treated human rights defenders in the Philippines,” she said.

“Instead of bewailing their alleged ‘meddling’, those who negatively reacted to the US Senators’ move should recognize that these foreign entities are simply advancing universal causes of justice, human rights and democracy,” De Lima added.

Senators Durbin, Blackburn and Coons pointed out that it is the duty of the Philippine government to “respect” the fundamental rights of its people at all cost, with Coons adding how he “look[s] forward to working with this bipartisan group of senators to promote respect for human rights in the Philippines.”

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.”

HR 233 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. Likewise, US Senator Bob Menendez, a ranking member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has also called for the immediate release of De Lima and other women political prisoners, last March 9.

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