US lawmakers press for De Lima’s release anew

Published May 27, 2022, 1:41 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Lawmakers in the United States (US) Senate pressed anew for the release of detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima who has been detained for five years.

During Thursday’s US Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs hearing on the budget request of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) for next year, Sen. Richard Durbin asked USAID Administrator Samantha Power, former US ambassador to the United Nations, if she is familiar with de Lima.

Power affirmed she knows de Lima and recalled writing a piece on the Filipino lawmaker when she was listed in Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2017.

Durbin noted that since a new administration is set to take over, he asked Powers if there is anything they can help her.

Power said that an incoming administration now provides a very good opportunity for a “diplomatic push” for the release of the detained senator.

“I think with a new government that itself wasn’t invested in the prior decision to arrest Madam De Lima, it seems like a very good occasion to make a diplomatic push and that I think the ones that are the most effective are executive and legislative branches together operating in unison. So we can follow up on that,” Power said.

Durbin has repeatedly called for de Lima’s release. Other US lawmakers who joined the move include Sen. Patrick Leahy.

Durbin and Leahy had introduced an amendment to the budget measure that would deny US entry to any Philippine official involved in the “wrongful imprisonment” of de Lima.

The move angered Duterte who later on ordered that both US lawmakers be denied entry to the Philippines.

Also in 2020, Durbin, along with U.S. Senators Ed Markey, Marco Rubio, Marsha Blackburn, and Chris Coons led the successful passage of a resolution calling for de Lima’s release.

They reiterated the call in a recent joint statement after some witnesses recanted their testimonies against de Lima.