Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy” Locsin Jr. went on another Twitter rant yesterday, railing against what he characterized as an “idiotic” U.S. Senate committee resolution calling for the release of jailed Senator Leila De Lima, and urging the government to drop charges against Rappler head Maria Ressa.
U.S. Senate Resolution 142, which recently passed the US Senate Foreign relations committee, condemned the Philippine government for its continued detention of the senator and called for her immediate release. De Lima, a vocal Duterte opponent, has been detained since 2017 over accusations of extortion based on less-than-credible evidence for which she has yet to be convicted. She was arrested shortly after opening a Senate investigation into President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war.
The U.S. resolution was just the latest in a string of calls from various political figures and organizations, both here and abroad, to free the jailed senator. The outcry over her detention has angered Duterte enough that he offered to leak a copy of a sex tape that he claimed featured De Lima.
The resolution also slammed the “harassment, arrest, and unjustified judicial proceedings against the media and journalists, in particular, the proceeding against Rappler and Maria Ressa.” It also described Ressa’s arrest as “part of a pattern of ‘weaponizing the rule of law’ to repress independent media.”
Ressa’s news outlet, Rappler, has been in hot water with the government after being slapped last year with charges for allegedly violating the country’s tax code and laws on foreign media ownership — charges that are widely believed to be politically motivated.
In a statement on Saturday, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo slammed the resolution, saying it was a “brazen and heedless affront against the dignity not only of the Philippine Government but of our country’s sovereignty as well… There can be no excuse for the US Senate Committee not to know that the Philippines has long ceased to be a colony of the United States.”
Foreign Secretary Locsin, meanwhile, long known for his unvarnished (i.e. f-bomb-laden) Twitter tirades, unsurprisingly backed Malacañang’s sentiments.
“Idiotic,” the country’s top diplomat said of the resolution by one of its top trading partners. “Even a Philippine Senate resolution is not one of the ways of ending a criminal trial; there’s only acquittal or conviction or dismissal by a demurrer to evidence.”
Idiotic. Even a Philippine Senate resolution is not one of the ways of ending a criminal trial; there’s only acquittal or conviction or dismissal by a demurrer to evidence. But a US Senate resolution? Aside from separation of powers there’s the independence of nations. https://t.co/2b1LejIiiB
— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) December 14, 2019
Panelo also noted that both De Lima and Ressa “are currently facing criminal prosecution for transgression of Philippine laws,” and said that the country’s judicial process should be respected
“Ressa was given provisional liberty by the hearing court while De Lima’s continued detention remains on account of the nature of the crime she is charged with and the court’s finding that the evidence against her is strong,” Panelo said.
Then, in an apparent attempt to preemptively dismiss the inevitable backlash to his own remarks, Panelo insisted “that the cases against De Lima and Ressa have absolutely nothing to do with their political views on the Duterte Administration.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Senate Resolution 142 had passed the Senate in December. In fact, it cleared the Committee on Foreign Relations in December, and was passed by the Senate in January. Coconuts Manila apologizes for any confusion caused.