Washington (October 13, 2022) – Days after Philippine prisoner of conscience Senator Leila de Lima was held hostage by an imprisoned terrorist who attempted to escape Camp Crame, U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) led his colleagues Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Representatives Amata Coleman Radewagen (AS), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), and Don Beyer (VA-08) in urging Philippine Secretary of Justice Jesus Crispin C. Remulla to review Senator de Lima’s case, release her from her unjust detention, officially recognize the lack of evidence against her, and drop all charges. Senator de Lima has been wrongfully imprisoned for more than five years on politically-motivated charges, first filed against her by the previous Duterte administration. In August, Senator Markey led a congressional delegation to the Philippines that met with Secretary Remulla and President Marcos Jr and which included dialogue on rule-of-law and human rights issues. The delegation also visited Senator de Lima at Camp Crame, where she reiterated her innocence of all charges against her.
“There appears to be no limit to the denial of due process, deprivation of liberty, and life-threatening conditions to which the Government of the Philippines is willing to subject Senator Leila de Lima despite the absence of any evidence to support the outrageous charges against her. With Senator de Lima having just narrowly escaped death at the hand of a knife-wielding hostage-taker, it is incumbent on the Philippine authorities to end this travesty at once. The United States and the Philippines share important interests, and this case, like the baseless charges and ongoing harassment against Nobel Prize winning journalist Maria Ressa, should have ended long ago. No democracy can survive without access to justice. We join others around the world in calling on the Marcos administration to show they understand this by dropping all charges and releasing Senator de Lima without delay,” said the lawmakers.
In their letter, the lawmakers called on Secretary Remulla’s Justice Department to abandon the political case against Senator De Lima and to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into the circumstances that led members of the Philippine National Police and other witnesses to make false claims against her. They further urge the Philippine government to hold those individuals who were involved in bringing the false charges against Senator De Lima to account. The lawmakers additionally urged Secretary Remulla to continue to work with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to implement recommendations and address concerns raised in the Commissioner’s September report on the Philippines, including through a United Nations Joint Programme on human rights and the U.S. Department of Justice’s International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP).