By Daniel Llanto i FilAm Star Correspondent
Malacañang slammed five U.S. senators who signed a resolution calling for the dropping of charges against Sen. Leila de Lima and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, saying this amount to an intrusion and interference in the country’s sovereignty.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson chimed in: “The Philippines has its own judicial system which follows due process.”
“We are not (Amerca’s) colony. We have a Constitution that provides for three co-equal branches and a judicial system where due process is followed, regardless of its flaws and weaknesses,” Lacson said in a tweet.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the resolution is “an unwelcome intrusion to the country’s domestic legal processes and an outrageous interference on the nation’s sovereignty as the subject cases are now being heard by the courts.”
Earlier, Senators Edward Markey (Massachusetts), Marco Rubio (Florida), Richard Durbin (Illinois), Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee) and Chris Coons (Delaware) filed a bipartisan resolution condemning alleged human rights abuses in the Philippines, citing as prime examples the cases of detained Opposition Sen. Leila De Lima and arrested Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.
They denounced the government’s efforts to arrest and detain “human rights defenders and political leaders who exercise their rights to freedom of expression” amid the on-going war against illegal drugs in the Philippines.
The Resolution makes it clear that the U.S. Congress seeks “an immediate improvement in the government’s behavior and the end of efforts to weaponize the rule of law against brave individuals like Sen. Leila De Lima and Maria Ressa.”
The resolution of the U.S. senators irked Panelo, who urged the lawmakers to “mind their own business” as “their country has enough problems and they should focus on them.”
The five United States senators who called on the Philippine government to free Sen. Leila De Lima and drop charges against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa should stop meddling with the country’s affairs, Malacañang said.
Panelo said: “No government official of any country has the authority or right to dictate on how we address the commission of crimes.”
The President’s mouthpiece also said that the U.S. senators’ resort to a “reckless and unstudied political exercise” showed their unfamiliarity of the country’s domestic affairs and their disrespect to the clamor of Filipinos for law and order.
“As regards Sen. De Lima and Ms. Ressa, their cases have passed through administrative and judicial processes before their respective warrants of arrest have been issued by courts,” Panelo said.
The President’s spokesman alleged that De Lima is a “prisoner of no conscience or a prisoner of her own folly” and Ressa is a “high-profile journalist who is obsessed with hiding behind the mantle of the freedom of speech but who is criminally charged due to her commission of illegal acts.”
A staunch critic of the Duterte administration and its ferocious anti-narcotics campaign, De Lima was arrested on February 24, 2017 on what she called “trumped-up” charges that she said were part of the President’s vendetta.
After being re-arrested in February on different charges and then freed on bail, veteran journalist Ressa was re-arrested in March on charges that she and her colleagues at on-line news site Rappler violated rules on foreign ownership of media.
“Their association with the political opposition is no exempting circumstance to shield them from criminal prosecution. In this country, no one is above the law,” Panelo said.
Panelo reiterated, “As to the issue of EJKs, such has been repeatedly addressed as either a consequence of law enforcement agencies defending themselves from the lethal violence unleashed by those subject of legitimate police operations or a result of members of the prohibited drug industry killing each other because of rivalry, botched deals, swindling or for their pre-emptive protection measures.”
EJKs remain the chief human rights concern in the Philippines and these continued in 2018 with an average of six persons killed daily in anti-drug operations, according to the latest annual report of the US State Department on human rights practices.