Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has welcomed the call by US Senators John McCain and Benjamin Cardin for US President Trump to recommit their country to upholding human rights and call on other countries to do the same. De Lima, a known human rights defender, thanked McCain and Cardin for addressing the worsening human rights situation across the globe, particularly the rash of extrajudicial killings under President Duterte’s campaign on illegal drugs.
“When it comes to the worsening human rights situation–be it in the Philippines or other countries–we cannot remain silent. I thank the two good senators for boldly raising the importance of upholding human rights and the rule of law while other public officials choose to be mum on the matter,” she said.
As the world marks the 69th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Human Rights Day this month, McCain and Cardin wrote a letter to President Trump expressing concern over the Trump administration’s apparent failure to reaffirm the US commitment to human rights at home and abroad.
“For much of the past year, our national voice on international human rights issues has been largely silent. This was strikingly apparent during your recent trip to Asia, where our delegation failed to raise major human rights concerns or name dissidents who languish in dark prisons across the region for no other reason than their brave defense of democracy and human rights,” they said in the letter dated Dec. 8.
They noted how disregard for fundamental freedoms and human dignity has “too often become the norm,” citing the unprecedented number of extrajudicial killings by police in the Philippines, which remains uninvestigated, among others.
De Lima said she hopes the McCain-Cardin letter will alert President Trump and other government officials about the importance of their human rights obligation and their role in promoting peace and security.
“It’s about time we unite in standing up for the basic values of human dignity and justice for everyone. Before 2017 ends, I hope my fellow public officials, as with McCain and Cardin, realize the need to be the voice of the oppressed in the face of these mass atrocities,” she said.
Last month, McCain through his social media account criticized Trump for reportedly failing to raise the issue of human rights in his bilateral meeting with Duterte, saying, “human rights [is] obviously not a priority in [Trump’s] meeting with Duterte… sad.”
Duterte’s war on drugs, which has reportedly claimed 13,000 lives, has gained criticism on local and international fronts but the Philippine President refuses to issue a clear and categorical order to stop the killings.