Senator Leila M. de Lima has thanked the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee for unanimously approving a bipartisan resolution calling on the Philippine government to release her from illegal detention and drop all politically motivated charges against her.
De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, said she is grateful to have found allies in the US Senate who lobbied and supported the adoption of the US resolution, logged as Senate Resolution (SR) No. 142, passed by all 21 bipartisan committee members.
“I’ve always believed that standing strong for one’s convictions and fighting always for what is true and just, for human rights and humanity have many friends around the globe,” she said in her Dispatch from Crame No. 673.
“Thank you U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee for S. Res. 142,” she added.
Last Dec. 11, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has unanimously approved SR No. 142 which calls on the Philippine government to “immediately release Senator De Lima, drop all charges against her, remove restrictions on her personal and work conditions, and allow her to fully discharge her legislative mandate.”
The resolution also adopted amendments introduced by US Sen. Benjamin Cardin that involved the call for US President Donald Trump to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to government officials responsible for “orchestrating” De Lima’s arrest and prolonged detention.
It also underscored the need to apply same sanctions against members of security forces and Philippine officials responsible for extrajudicial killings in the country.
In filing the resolution last April 4, US Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Chris Coons (D-DE), referred De Lima as a “prisoner of conscience, detained solely on account of her political views and the legitimate exercise of her freedom of expression.” The number of co-sponsors increased to 12. Sen. Rubio and Sen. Markey are the main authors.
Note that Cardin, along with Senator John Mc Cain, is the author of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (Sections 1261-1265, Subtitle F of Title XII of Public Law 114-328), which was signed into law on 23 December 2016.
The said law allows the US President to block or revoke US visas and to freeze US-based property and interests in property of foreign persons who have engaged in extrajudicial killings or other rights abuses, as well as government officials who are engaged in or responsible for significant acts of corruption.
In addition, SR No. 142 also urged the Philippine government to “recognize the importance of human rights defenders and their work and allow them to operate freely without fear of reprisal.”
It also called on the Philippine government to “guarantee the right to the freedom of the press” and to “drop all the charges” against Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa.
The bipartisan resolution was also sponsored by Senators Jeff Merkley, Tina Smith, Patrick Leahy, Brian Schatz, Dianne Feinstein, Benjamin Cardin, and Cory Booker who is running for president in the next US elections.
Last Sept. 27, the US Senate Appropriations Committee also approved an amendment to the US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill denying the entry of any Philippine government official involved in De Lima’s “wrongful imprisonment.” The amendment was filed by Sen. Durbin, together with Sen. Leahy.
De Lima’s continued illegal detention drew attention from the international community, including the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, European Parliament, Canadian Parliament, Australian Parliament, Parliamentarians for Global Action, Inter-Parliamentary Union, Amnesty International, Liberal International, and Human Rights Watch, among many others. (30)