Resolution urges Government of the Philippines to respect freedom of expression and fundamental rights


Washington (January 9, 2020)—Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.) applauded passage of their bipartisan resolution that condemns ongoing human rights abuses in the Philippines. Introduced in April, the resolution specifically raises the cases of the Philippine legislator Leila De Lima and journalist Maria Ressa. Senator de Lima has been detained for more than 1,000 days on allegations of drug trafficking that observers widely agree are baseless and in response to her criticism of Duterte government policies. Ressa, founder of online news platform Rappler, has been arrested multiple times on libel charges after publishing investigations of the Duterte government’s role in extrajudicial killings during anti-narcotics operations. As with the case of Senator de Lima, the charges brought against Ressa appear meritless and intimidatory.


“While we remain a steadfast ally of the Philippines, we also remain resolute in defending human rights and the rule of law,” said Senator Markey. “In passing this resolution, the United States Senate makes clear that the Duterte government must end its human rights abuses. Preventing Senators and Americans from setting foot in the Philippines will not help the Duterte government brush under the rug state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings. No arbitrary detention or illegitimate charge can obscure the fact that Senator De Lima, Maria Ressa, and all those who speak truth to power exemplify the highest democratic ideals.”


“The Duterte government in the Philippines continues to chip away at respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights,” said Senator Durbin. “Passage of this bipartisan resolution shows that the U.S. Senate stands united in our condemnation of his government’s troubling behavior and democratic backsliding. We also continue our call for the need to release Senator Leila de Lima and for the Duterte government to end the harassment of journalists.”


“The Government of the Philippines needs to respect the fundamental human rights of its people,” said Senator Blackburn. “The ongoing extrajudicial killings and meritless imprisonment of Senator de Lima and Ms. Ressa are unconscionable. We value our relationship with the Philippines. But the U.S. Congress expects to see real change to the current practices of the Duterte government. I am pleased to see the United States Senate presenting a united front in this effort.”


“The passage of this important resolution reaffirms the U.S. commitment to promoting human rights and accountability in all parts of the world,” said Senator Coons. “As a co-chair of the Senate Human Rights Caucus and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I believe we have the responsibility to call out the grave human rights violations committed by President Duterte’s government, including against prominent political leaders, human rights activists, and members of the press.”


The Department of State’s 2017 Human Rights Report notes numerous human rights concerns, including the persecution of human rights defenders and the detention of political prisoners in the Philippines, stating, “The most significant human rights issues included: killings by security forces, vigilantes and others allegedly connected to the government, and by insurgents; torture and abuse of prisoners and detainees by security forces; often harsh and life threatening prison conditions; warrantless arrests by security forces and cases of apparent government disregard for legal rights and due process; political prisoners; killings of and threats against journalists; official corruption and abuse of power; threats of violence against human rights activists; violence against women; and forced labor.”