Mind your own business, Palace tells United States senators

April 08, 2019

MALACANANG yesterday slammed the call of some United States senators for the Philippine government to release Senator Leila de Lima from detention and drop the charges against Rappler chief Maria Ressa.

In a statement, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the American senators who made the call “should mind their own business — their country has enough problems and they should focus on them.”

“Their resolution is an unwelcome intrusion to the country’s domestic legal processes and an outrageous interference with our nation’s sovereignty as the subject cases are now being heard by our local courts. No government official of any foreign country has the authority or right to dictate on how we address the commission of crimes,” Panelo said.

He added the Philippines, a former American colony, is “not under the dominion of the United States of America or any of its high-ranking officials.”

“The US senators’ resort to a reckless and unstudied political exercise only highlights their unfamiliarity with the domestic matters of our country as well as their disrespect to the clamor of the Filipino people for law and order,” he said.

In a separate interview on GMA News TV’s News To Go, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the US lawmakers should respect the judicial system in the Philippines.
“Meron naman tayong legal processes sa bansa. Palagay ko ang mga senador ng ibang bansa ay dapat respetuhin ang due process of law natin,” Nograles said.

“Tumatakbo naman ang kaso. Dinidinig naman ang kaso. Ibang usapan po ‘yun pag talagang may failure of justice system,” Nograles said.

Filed by a bipartisan group of US senators—Democrats Ed Markey, Chris Coons, and Dick Durbin and Republicans Marco Rubio and Marsha Blackburn—also condemned the “state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings” in the Philippines as part of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

According to the resolution, De Lima should be considered a “prisoner of conscience,” who was detained “solely on account of her political views and legitimate exercise of her freedom of expression.”

The resolution said the charges against Ressa and Rappler are viewed by human rights groups and other governments as “part of a pattern of ‘weaponizing the rule of law’ to repress independent media.”

Panelo said the US senators blindly believed the “false narratives fed to them by biased news agencies and paid anti-Duterte trolls” on the drug case of De Lima, the charges against Ressa and the alleged extrajudicial killings in the country.

He reiterated that the alleged EJKs were not state-sponsored and the charges against De Lima and Ressa passed through administrative and judicial processes before their respective warrants of arrest were issued by courts.

Panelo said De Lima is no “prisoner of conscience rather a prisoner of no conscience or a prisoner of her own folly.”

Ressa, meanwhile, is a journalist who is “obsessed with hiding behind the mantle of the freedom of speech but who is criminally charged due to her commission of illegal acts, which include the offense of tax evasion, breach of our anti-dummy laws and violation of our cyber libel laws,” according to Panelo.

“Their association with the political opposition is no exempting circumstance to shield them from criminal prosecution. In this country no one is above the law,” he said.

The Palace spokesman said the Duterte administration enforces the law “equally without any regard to any relationship or closeness to it.”

“Holders of political positions, of influence, or of wealth are not exempted from the vigorous application and operation of our laws,” Panelo said.