U.S. congressional delegation meets with Marcos Jr., De Lima and Rappler

Head of delegation Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr in Malacañang. Marcos Jr. Facebook photo

A congressional delegation, led by Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asia, Pacific, visited the Philippines on August 18 and 19 and met with President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and former Senator Leila de Lima who has been detained since 2017 for being an outspoken critic of former President Duterte’s war on drugs.

Markey’s delegation included Representatives John Garamendi from California, Don Beyer of Virginia, Alan Lowenthal from California, and Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen from American Samoa.  This is Markey’s first visit since he was banned from entering the country for his vocal stance condemning the human rights offenses of Duterte.

The delegation became the first U.S. congressional delegation to meet with Marcos since his inauguration on June 30 of this year. During the meeting, the delegation reaffirmed the important alliance relationship between the two countries, and discussed regional security challenges, according to a press statement from Markey’s office.

“The United States remains a steadfast treaty ally of the Philippines and our people-to-people ties are unmatched,” said Markey. “I am pleased to lead the first U.S. congressional delegation to meet with President Marcos, Jr. and look forward to the promise of a renewed partnership with the newly elected government. I expressed to President Marcos my hope that he will turn the page on the human rights abuses of the previous government.”

Former Senator Leila de Lima; Rappler founder and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa

“The delegation raised concerns regarding the human rights record under the previous Government of the Philippines and expressed their hope that President Marcos, Jr. would set a new tone for the importance of human rights and freedom of the press,” the statement said.

The delegation also visited with former Senator de Lima, who remains imprisoned on “politically motivated charges.”

“For too long,” said Markey, “Senator Leila de Lima has been held on politically motivated charges. Despite this, her spirit remains undiminished. I call on the new government to release her and drop all charges without delay.”

During their visit, the delegation also met with Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo and Secretary of Justice Jesus Crispin Remulla. During these meetings, the delegation discussed a range of issues including cooperation on renewable energy, U.S. support for human rights, press freedom, and LGBTQIA+ rights, and regional security issues, including the South China Sea.

The delegation met with members of the press from Rappler, the news organization founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, to hear about the Philippine government’s campaign to close down the site and discuss press freedom and human rights. The Philippines remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist.

“The courage we have seen from the members of the Philippine press in speaking truth to power is inspiring. A free and independent press is the bedrock of any democracy,” said Markey.

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