WASHINGTON—U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) met virtually on September 28th with Philippines Foreign Minister Teodor Locsin and Philippines Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez and discussed the U.S.-Philippines cooperation and the ongoing detention of Filipina Senator Leila de Lima. Durbin raised several human rights concerns under Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, including extrajudicial drug-related killings, harassment of journalists such as Maria Ressa, and jailing of opposing voices such as de Lima. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) also joined the meeting.
“Illinois is home to a vibrant, hardworking Filipino community. In my conversations with Illinois’ Filipino leaders, they remain disturbed by President Duterte’s actions. That includes the unjust jailing of Philippines human rights champion Senator Leila de Lima, crackdowns on the free press, and extrajudicial murders. I reassured Philippines Foreign Minister Locsin and Ambassador Romualdez that the United States recognizes the importance of cooperation with the Philippines to bolster security in the region, but it will not be at the exclusion of the country’s human rights record,” Durbin said.
In July, Durbin and a group of Senate Democrats sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing their concerns with the human rights situation in the Philippines and asking for the Biden Administration’s strategy for addressing the Duterte government’s violations. And last year, Senators Markey, Durbin, and others passed Senate Resolution 142, which criticized the Duterte government’s troubling human rights record and called for the release of de Lima.