US senators want De Lima freed

A US Senate committee has passed a resolution calling for the release of Senator Leila de Lima and the dropping of the charges against Rappler boss Maria Ressa, its proponents said Tuesday.

De Lima, who was arrested on drug charges in February 2017, is “a prisoner of conscience, detained solely on account of her political views and the legitimate exercise of her freedom of expression,” according to US Senate Resolution 142.

Quoting rights observers, the resolution also dubbed the arrest of Ressa for libel and tax-related charges as “part of a pattern of ‘weaponizing the rule of law’ to repress independent media.”

Senator Leila de Lima
The resolution called on the Philippine government to “drop all charges” against Ressa and De Lima, and allow the senator to “fully discharge her legislative mandate, especially as Chair of the [Philippine Senate] Committee on Social Justice.”

It also called on US President Donald Trump to “impose sanctions” against security forces and officials responsible for De Lima’s arrest.

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the resolution, said two of its five proponents, US Senators Edward Markey and Richard Durbin, on Twitter.

The move “demonstrates broad support for accountability” in De Lima’s case, whose crime is “standing for human rights and good governance in the Philippines,” said Markey.

The resolution was also submitted by US Senators Marco Rubio, Marsha Blackburn and Chris Coons.

Philippine Senate President Vicente Sotto III had reminded American lawmakers that the country was no longer a colony of the United States.

“We are a sovereign nation. We have our own judicial processes, Sotto said in a statement.

“Sovereign states have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide the violation of their own laws. We are not a colony anymore, he said.

Malacañang earlier told the US lawmakers to “mind their own business―their country has enough problems and they should focus on them.”

“The Republic of the Philippines is not under the dominion of the United States of America or any of its high-ranking officials,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in April.

“The US senators’ resort to a reckless and unstudied political exercise only highlights their unfamiliarity with the domestic matters of our country as well as their disrespect to the clamor of the Filipino people for law and order.”

The cases against De Lima and Ressa “passed through administrative and judicial processes before their respective warrants of arrest have been issued by courts,” Panelo said.

Topics: US Senate , Senator Leila de Lima , Rappler , Maria Ressa , US Senate Resolution 142
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