U.S. senators urge PH gov't to drop charges vs. De Lima, Maria Ressa

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 7) — Five senators from the United States have filed a measure seeking to drop the charges against Philippine Senator Leila De Lima and journalist Maria Ressa.

Senators Edward Markey (Massachusetts), Marco Rubio (Florida), Richard Durbin (Illinois), Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee) and Chris Coons (Delaware) filed a bipartisan resolution Friday condemning alleged human rights abuses in the Philippines, citing De Lima and Ressa's cases.

The senators denounced the government's efforts to arrest and detain "human rights defenders and political leaders who exercise their rights to freedom of expression" amid the ongoing war on drugs in the Philippines.

De Lima, a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-drug war, is currently detained for allegedly abetting an illegal drug trade during her term as justice secretary in the previous administration. She maintained her innocence and accused the government of fabricating the cases against her.

Ressa, the CEO of news site Rappler, which the President has repeatedly slammed for its critical coverage of his administration, was slapped with multiple charges, totaling 11 complaints and cases. She has posted bail seven times. Ressa has repeatedly accused the government of "weaponizing the law" to silence its critics.

"The Philippines is a close ally, but this bipartisan resolution makes it clear that the U.S. Congress seeks an immediate improvement in the government's behavior and the end of efforts to weaponize the rule of law against brave individuals like Senator Leila de Lima and Maria Ressa," Markey's statement said.