Pompeo raises importance of free press, rights of 'all Filipinos' with Locsin
MANILA, Philippines – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the importance of a free press and rights of all Filipinos during his meeting with Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin on Friday, March 1.
Pompeo, who ended his overnight Philippine visit on Friday, relayed the key points of his meeting with Locsin to the media after their meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
"I raised with my counterpart the importance of protecting the rights and liberties of all Filipinos including free speech, a free press, and due process under the law," Pompeo said in his opening remarks during his joint press conference with Locsin.
A reporter from the US media traveling with Pompeo asked him if he raised with Philippine officials concerns over human rights in the Philippines, as well as the treatment of opposition figures in detention. Aside from Locsin, Pompeo met with President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night, February 28.
Pompeo kept his answer general. He did not mention specific critics or moves of the Duterte administration against them.
"I did raise the issue of human rights. I did so broadly. I do this in my travels everywhere we go. Our expectation for countries to observe the rule of law is fundamental to America. We have these conversations; it happens. Our embassy raises the issues here and around the world," he said
"We never forget the importance of human rights, rule of law, transparency, justice wherever it is that we go," Pompeo added.
On the treatment of opposition figures in detention in the Philippines, Pompeo took the question to refer to the situation of jounalists in the country.
"The second question you asked [is] more specific about journalists. We have an expectation of a free and open press everywhere. We communicate that to adversaries, to our partners and friends. We’re never shy about talking about its importance," he said.
The US Embassy in the Philippines had issued a rare statement on the arrest of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa on February 14 stressing the need for due process in the cyber libel case against her and Rappler.
Congressman Elliot Engel, chairman of the US House of Representatives foreign affairs committee had called on Pompeo to "press for justice" in the cases of Ressa and Senator Leila de Lima, who marked her second year in jail over drug charges which critics of the administration say are politically-motivated.
The US State Department under the Barack Obama administration, and then-President Obama himself, had expressed concern over human rights violations in Duterte's bloody campaign against illegal drugs, making them the target of expletives and tirades of the Philippine leader.
Duterte had earlier threatened to scrap the Philippines-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and even recounted US troops' atrocities in Mindanao when the Philippines was still its colony during his speech at the East Asia Summit in 2016 attended by 18 leaders, including Obama.
Duterte has warmed up to Obama's successor, Trump, who had lauded drug war. – Rappler.com