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De Lima echoes appeal of 2 US senators to uphold human rights

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By Hannah Torregoza

Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Wednesday said she hopes that the call made by at least two American senators would spur United States President Donald Trump and President Rodrigo Duterte to action and prioritize human rights in their respective countries.

De Lima was referring to US Senators John McCain and Benjamin Cardin who called on Trump to recommit their country to upholding human rights and call on other nations to do the same.

Senator Leila de Lima at the Senate hearing on Wednesday, November 23. (Ali Vicoy | Manila Bulletin)

MB File–Senator Leila de Lima (Ali Vicoy/MANILA BULLETIN)

“When it comes to the worsening human rights situation—be it in the Philippines or other countries—we cannot remain silent,” said de Lima, a former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair and Department of Justice (DOJ) secretary.

“I thank the two good senators for boldly raising the importance of upholding human rights and the rule of law while other public officials choose to be mum on the matter,” she said.

The senator is currently detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame over drug charges, which she said were trumped-up accusations for vocally criticizing the Duterte administration’s brutal war on drugs.

The two US senators wrote a letter to Trump as the world marks the 69th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Human Rights Day this month.

McCain and Cardin expressed their concern over the Trump administration’s apparent failure to reaffirm the US commitment to human rights at home and abroad.

“For much of the past year, our national voice on international human rights issues has been largely silent. This was strikingly apparent during your recent trip to Asia, where our delegation failed to raise major human rights concerns or name dissidents who languish in dark prisons across the region for no other reason than their brave defense of democracy and human rights,” they said in the letter dated December 8.

Both lawmakers also took note how disregard for fundamental freedoms and human dignity has “too often become the norm,” citing the number of extrajudicial killings by police in the Philippines.

The Duterte administration’s anti-illegal drugs campaign has gained criticism on local and international fronts but the President refuses to issue a clear and categorical order to stop the killings.

“It’s about time we unite in standing up for the basic values of human dignity and justice for everyone,” she said.

“Before 2017 ends, I hope my fellow public officials, as with McCain and Cardin, realize the need to be the voice of the oppressed in the face of these mass atrocities,” she stressed.

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