The Philippines‘ relations with the United States (US) would remain “untarnished” despite the “misguided and intrusive act” by some American senators considered as an insult to Manila’s dignity and sovereignty, Malacañang said.
The assurance was made by Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo as he said the Duterte government viewed with “grave concern” the US Senate foreign relations panel’s call for the immediate release of detained Senator Leila de Lima and the dropping of charges against Rappler chief Maria Ressa.
“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,” Panelo said in a statement. “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.”
The US Senate foreign relations committee approved on December 11 Resolution 142, which urges the Philippine government to immediately release de Lima and withdraw charges against Ressa.
De Lima is detained at the Philippine Custodial Center in Quezon City because of her supposed involvement in unlawful drug trade during her stint as justice secretary under the Aquino government.
Ressa, on the other hand, is accused of evading the payment of PHP150 million in tax dues on Rappler’s 2015 bond sales to two foreign parties. She was ordered arrested in November 2018 but was freed after posting bail.
Panelo said de Lima and Ressa, who are facing criminal prosecution for “transgression of Philippine laws,” are accorded procedural due process “in all stages of their criminal prosecution.”
“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,” he said. “Ressa was given provisional liberty by the hearing court while 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 also noted that the investigating public prosecutors found probable cause to file criminal charges against them and issue warrants for their arrest.
Unlike Ressa who is out on bail, de Lima is still in jail because the country’s law “withholds her right to liberty, given the gravity of the crimes on illegal drugs charged against her,” the Palace official explained.
“We reiterate that the cases against de Lima and Ressa 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. “The text of Resolution No. 142 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.”
Thus, the US Senate panel’s interference is a “brazen and heedless” affront to the Philippines’ the dignity and sovereignty, Panelo said, adding that the “undisguised and outrageous” intrusion of American lawmakers was unacceptable, considering that the Philippines “has long ceased to be a colony“ of the US.
“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,” he said. “Among sovereign states, there must be equal and mutual respect. Intrusion on the sovereign rights of independent countries is abhorrent in civilized societies and anathema to international order.” (PNA)