Press Release
March 5, 2019

De Lima grateful over 4 US lawmakers' call for justice on her case

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has welcomed the call by the four members of the United States Congress to uphold human rights and press for justice in her case in line with her second year of unjust detention under the tyrannical rule of Mr. Duterte.

De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, thanked US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and three of his colleagues for raising concern over her situation and boldly speaking out against the Duterte administration's utter disregard for human rights in the country.

"Raising the importance of upholding human rights - especially of the most vilified opposition Senator like me - in a country where the President himself is the first to put human rights defenders at risk, is a highly commendable and courageous act that not all dare to do," she said.

"I thank the four honorable members of the US Congress for standing up to truth and using their voices to stop the silencing of dissent in the Philippines," she added.

In a letter last Feb. 28, Engel along with Reps. Brad Sherman and Ted Yoho, Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation and Rep. Steve Cabot urged US State Secretary Mike Pompeo to press for justice for De Lima and Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa during his stay in the Philippines.

"We urge you to raise US concerns about the Duterte government's assault on civil society, media freedom and human rights at every opportunity during your February 28-March 1 trip to Manila, and to specifically press for justice in the cases of Maria Ressa and Senator Leila de Lima," the US lawmakers wrote.

They noted that De Lima "was arrested on allegations of drug charges after her Senate-led investigation of the death squads in Davao City when Duterte was mayor" while Ressa, who was arrested on Feb. 13 for libel charges against online news outfit Rappler, "is yet another example of the Duterte government's effort to crackdown on the freedom of press and speech."

Without getting into any details, Pompeo revealed in a joint news conference that he discussed issues on human rights, press freedom, and rule of law during his meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

"I raised with my counterparts the importance of protecting the rights and liberties of all Filipinos including free speech, freedom of the press, and due process under the law," Pompeo said.

Likewise, the four US lawmakers also pointed out in their letter that the United States must never be silent in the face of democratic regression, especially in the Philippines where they keep close ties with.

"Indeed, the issue on human rights knows neither boundaries nor nationalities. It should be respected by all and therefore be fought for by all," De Lima said

The unjust detention of De Lima since February 24, 2017 has caused growing concern by local and international organizations but the Philippine President refuses to address her case and instead persists in his verbal attacks against her.

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