(Eagle News)–The Palace on Saturday, Dec. 14, slammed a United States Senate panel approval of a resolution calling for the release of Senator Leila de Lima and an end to the alleged harassment of Rappler’s Maria Ressa, calling it a “brazen and heedless affront against the dignity” of the country’s sovereignty.
“It is an undisguised and outrageous intrusion to a sovereign state. There can be no excuse for the US Senate Committee not to know that the Philippines has long ceased to be a colony of the United States,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
According to Panelo, in the first place, both De Lima and Ressa are “currently facing criminal prosecution for transgression of Philippine laws,” saying the courts found probable cause for the charges against them.
De Lima is facing drug-related charges for her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison when she was justice secretary, while Ressa is facing cyberlibel and libel charges over a Rappler story on businessman Wilfredo Keng, which deemed it malicious.
The cases, Panelo said, have absolutely nothing to do with their political views on the Duterte Administration.”
“The record shows that no one has been hailed to court on account of one’s exercise of the freedom of the speech and of the press,” he said.
According to Panelo, “in every stage of the proceeding, both exercised their constitutional right to due process and to competent counsel of their choice. They continue to avail of all available legal remedies for their defense.”
In fact, he said Ressa was given provisional liberty by the hearing court.
“De Lima’s continued detention remains on account of the nature of the crime she is charged with and the court’s finding that the evidence against her is strong,” Panelo explained.
He said the Palace expected the “responsible US Senators to be familiar with our processes considering that the protection and limitations of the rights of an accused are also inscribed in the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to their Constitution.”
He added the resolution “reveals the prejudice upon which the good US senators based their conclusion on the situation in our country, which have absolutely no basis in fact nor in law.”
“We call on these US senators to remove the blinders in their eyes and look at the De Lima and Ressa cases not with jaundiced eyes but with studied objectivity and cautious discernment. They should respect the judicial processes of our country in the same manner we respect theirs. Among sovereign states there must be equal and mutual respect. Intrusion on the sovereign rights of independent countries is abhorrent in civilised societies and anathema to international order,” he said.
“While we continue to respect the US Senate as an institution, we however will not allow our sovereignty trampled upon by a few of their members. We hope that probing and educated minds will ultimately prevail and that such misguided and intrusive act shall not tarnish nor diminish the warm relations between our two countries,” he added.
The US Senate foreign relations committee passed Resolution No. 142 in November.
Earlier, Senator Dick Durbin, who had hailed the passage of the resolution, and another senator, Patrick Leahy, proposed an amendment to the 2020 state and foreign operations appropriations bill banning the entry to the US of any Philippine government official allegedly involved in the “politically motivated imprisonment” of De Lima.
The Palace, however, slammed Leahy for his “ignorance,” noting that De Lima was detained because the investigating prosecutor and the judge have found probable cause to pursue drug-related charges against her and issue the warrant of arrest.
“US Senator Patrick Leahy simply does not get it. The good senator from Vermont, through his spokesperson David Carle, is showing more ignorance and uttering amusing nonsense on a subject matter based on bogus narratives coming from President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s vocal and noisy critics and detractors, which constitute a pathetic minority in the country,” Panelo had said.