United States Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) over the weekend called on the Philippine government to release Senator Leila De Lima who has been imprisoned for the past two years on drug-related charges.
In a tweet, Rubio claimed the Philippine senator has been in prison on “bogus charges.”
“Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, a critic of extrajudicial killings under [President Rodrigo] Duterte’s so-called ‘war on drugs,’ has spent the last two years in prison on bogus charges. I call on the Philippine government to unconditionally release her #FreeLeilaNow #ExpressionNOTOppression,” Rubio tweeted Saturday, Sept. 21.
De Lima, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, initiated a probe into his administration’s crusade against illegal drugs. She was arrested and detained in 2017 for allegedly asking money from drug convicts to fund her senatorial campaign and for supposedly allowing the drug trade to continue in the national penitentiary while she was the justice secretary.
She, however, denied committing the alleged crimes and claimed that the cases against her were politically motivated.
In response to Rubio’s message, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo brushed it off as “bogus.”
“‘Yung statement ni Sen. Rubio, ‘yun ang bogus, walang batayan (The statement of Senator Rubio is bogus and baseless),” Panelo said during a Palace briefing on Monday, asserting that De Lima’s cases were reportedly investigated and received due process.
“Paano naman magiging bogus? Dalawang process ang dinaanan. Nagdemanda, nagkaroon ng PI — preliminary investigation, nagsubmit ng ebidensiya, nagsubmit rin yung kalaban, tapos dinitermine ng prosecutor na may probable cause (How would it be a bogus case if it goes through two processes? Thre’s a complaint, preliminary investigation, submission of evidence from both sides, and then the prosecutor determined that there is probable cause),” he added.
In April, Rubio and four other American senators — Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, and Christopher Coons of Delaware — passed a resolution condemning the imprisonment of de Lima and called on dropping the charges against news website Rappler and its chief Maria Ressa.
Their resolution read that De Lima is “a prisoner of conscience” who was “detained solely on account of her political views and the legitimate exercise of her freedom of expression.”
Malacañang, in response, told the senators to “mind their own business,” reminding them that the Philippines is “not under the dominion of the United States of America or any of its high-ranking officials.”
A group of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives also filed a resolution calling for the Filipina senator’s release and condemned the Philippine government for “its role in state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings by police and other armed individuals” under the war on drugs. (AJPress)