Filtered By: Topstories

US senators forewarned of ‘serious consequences’ for backing De Lima, Philippine envoy says

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez said Friday he already warned US Senators Richard Durbin and Edward Markey of the “far more serious consequences” if they will continue to demand the release of Senator Leila de Lima.

In his speech during the forum "Post-VFA:  Alliance Quo Vadis,” Romualdez narrated the events leading to President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to terminate the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States. 

“Let me take you back to exactly why we got to where we are today,” he said.

He said in November 2018, Durbin asked to see him to discuss specifically the case of De Lima. He said they had a direct and straightforward talk on the matter.

“They felt that the case was something that was not right, so-called persecution. I explained to him the case is still being in the preliminary stage, at that time, and I also offered Senator Durbin that we will be sending him a complete information on where the case was which he appreciated,” he said.

He said they were able to provide the information on De Lima’s case to Durbin and 11 other senators who were then thinking to file a resolution for the detained Filipino senator.

“I felt we were able to give the information that they needed. So out of the 12, only five continued to file the resolution,” he said.

In April 2019, Durbin, Senators Edward Markey, Chris Coons, Marco Rubio, and Marsha Blackburn filed Resolution 142 condemning the continued detention of De Lima and calling for her immediate release.

They also condemned the "state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings" in the Philippines as part of the Duterte administration's war on drugs, and called for the dropping of charges against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.

Romualdez said in November 2019, Durbin asked him again for a meeting together with Markey in his office at the US Capitol. He said they asked him about the case of De Lima and he said it was moving.

“What was disturbing was they were already saying that  we should release Sen De Lima. I told the senator that that is something I don’t think would be possible at all because we do have a justice system in the Philippines. Whether it is something that they are not happy with but certainly that is totally infringing in our sovereignty,” he said.

He added that he made it clear to them that De Lima’s release is something that they cannot really discuss because the courts would be the one to do that.

“The thing is Sen Markey from Massachusetts was a little bit more straightforward. He said, pointing his finger at me, Mr. Ambassador, you tell your government that if anything happens to Sen. De Lima, there will be serious  consequences,” Romualdez narrated.

“So I tried to be as calm as I can…I also told him perhaps there will be far more serious consequences if they continue to demand the release of Sen. De Lima,” he added.

The US Senate foreign relations committee approved the resolution in December 2019 and it was approved by the US Senate in January 2020.

“That is why we are where we are today on the termination of VFA,” he said.

He said President Rodrigo Duterte is very emphatic on the issue of sovereignty.

In February, Duterte ordered the termination of VFA following the cancellation of the visa of his ally, Senator Ronald dela Rosa, over his alleged involvement in the extrajudicial killings during his stint as Philippine National Police chief.

Romualdez said he US Ambassador Sung Kim are trying to find ways to craft another deal that could replace the VFA.

“We are now in the process of trying to find ways and means to be able to see how we can either come out with something similar perhaps again… still following the President’s thinking about the sovereignty issue,” he said. —LDF, GMA News