MANILAJustice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday said the criticisms and the call of five American lawmakers to drop the charges against detained Senator Leila de Lima and journalist Maria Ressa were based on a faulty premise that their rights had been violated in the ongoing indictments against them.
"De Lima is not detained in a crowded city jail and Ressa is out on bail. Where should they be released from? Being a senator or journalist does not put them above the law," Guevarra said.
"These five US senators have obviously been fed with wrong information," Guevarra said, referring to US senators Marco Rubio, Edward Markey, Richard Durbin, Marsha Blackburn, and Chris Coons.
Guevarra pointed out that de Lima is facing charges of running a protection racket for drug lords, who were operating from inside the national penitentiary, when she was still secretary of justice.
Ressa, on the other hand, is facing charges of tax evasion, libel and of violating the country's anti-dummy law by circumventing constitutional prohibition on foreign ownership of media outlets in the Philippines.
"Senator de Lima and Maria Ressa were charged with violation of Philippine laws, were given ample opportunity to present controverting evidence and were found to be probably guilty of the crimes charged. They are now undergoing a fair trial in a court of law," Guevarra said.
"Human rights and freedom of the press have nothing to do with it, as they continue to relentlessly attack and badmouth the government to this very day. The Philippine press is probably the freest in this part of the world," he added. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency