By Hannah Torregoza
Opposition Senator Leila de Lima thanked the United States House of Representatives for filing a resolution calling for her immediate release from her more than two years of unjust detention over allegations of involvement in illegal drug trade which she has repeatedly claimed were merely trumped -up charges against her by the Duterte administration.
De Lima, said she is elated to know that six members of the US Congress underscored the importance of respecting her rights, not only as a senator but also as a human rights defender.
“I feel humbled and surprised to learn that despite being thousands of miles away from me, these honorable lawmakers did not fail to make me feel that they are fighting with me and for me,” she said.
“I am beyond thankful not only for their concerns about my personal and work conditions but also about the plight of human rights defenders who are persecuted for fighting human rights abuses in the government’s war on drugs,” she added.
It was last March 14 when California Rep. Jackie Speier introduced House Resolution 233 “[c]ondemning the Government of the Philippines for its continued detention of Senator Leila de Lima, calling for her immediate release, and for other purposes.”
The US House resolution was co-sponsored by US Reps. James P. McGovern of Massachusetts, Henry C. Johnson of Georgia, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Brad Sherman of California, and Lloyd Doggett of Texas. It was referred to the US House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In their five-page resolution, the US lawmakers urged “the Philippine government to immediately release De Lima and drop all charges against her, remove restrictions on her personal and work conditions, and allow her to fully discharge her legislative mandate.”
The lawmakers also affirmed their belief that the former justice secretary was detained solely for her political views and her legitimate exercise of her freedom of expression, calling her a “prisoner of conscience.”
De Lima, one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s most vocal critics, said she hopes that the overwhelming outpouring of calls for her immediate release would send a strong message straight to the President and his minions that they should finally respect the rule of law and value human rights.
“Duterte should think twice about abusing his power to silence dissents and persecute his political enemies because the day of reckoning will come soon,” she said.
“He surely cannot escape global condemnation and justice,” said the lawmaker who is currently detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center.
“The recent call of these honorable American lawmakers for my freedom from unjust and illegal detention should be enough to remind Mr. Duterte that the world is indeed watching, and he should start doing what is right,” she stressed.