US senator: Duterte gov’t should be held accountable for jailing De Lima

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Detained Senator Leila de Lima (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 4) — It is "right" for the United States to hold the Philippine government accountable for the "troubling" detention of Senator Leila de Lima, an American lawmaker said Friday.

Veteran US Senator Ed Markey backed colleagues who have been criticized by Philippine administration officials for proposing a ban on those involved in De Lima's imprisonment.

In a tweet, Markey said fellow Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy "are right to push for accountability in the Philippine government."

"America must continue to stand for human rights and good governance," Markey added, as he reiterated his call for De Lima's release.

"Sen. de Lima has been the target of very troubling partisan persecution. In an attempt to intimidate and silence voices critical of the government, de Lima has been jailed and not given the opportunity to defend herself," Markey said.

Markey was one of five senators who earlier filed a resolution at the US Senate calling on the Philippine government to immediately free De Lima. He was joined by fellow Democrats Chris Coons and Durbin, and Republicans Marco Rubio and Marsha Blackbur.

The resolution called De Lima a "prisoner of conscience," noting that the charges against her were filed because she repeatedly criticized President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs. Malacañang has denied going after De Lima for being a staunch critic.

De Lima has been detained since 2017 for allegedly abetting illegal drug trade in the national penitentiary during her term as Justice Secretary under the previous administration. She has maintained her innocence and accused the government of fabricating the cases against her.

A US Senate committee recently approved the proposal to deny entry to Philippine government officials behind De Lima's detention. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said it was an affront to Philippine sovereignty, and even called Leahy "ignorant"of the country's laws and justice system.

Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III and colleague Christopher "Bong" Go suggested slapping US officials with a similar ban for interfering in the country's internal affairs.

Duterte said he will talk to American President Donald Trump if the controversial measure is passed prohibiting anti-De Lima officials from the US.

READ: Robredo says US has right to bar PH officials behind De Lima’s detention