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    US lawmakers meet detained Philippine opposition leader

    MANILA, PHILIPPINES (AP) – United States (US) Senator Edward Markey, who was once banned from the Philippines by former President Rodrigo Duterte, yesterday met a long-detained Filipino opposition leader, whom he says was wrongfully imprisoned under Duterte and should be freed.

    Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and a group of US legislators met former senator Leila de Lima for more than an hour in her high-security detention cell in the main police camp in Metropolitan Manila, according to her lawyer, Filibon Tacardon, and police.

    Duterte had banned Markey and two other American legislators from traveling to the Philippines after they called for de Lima’s release and raised alarm over human rights violations under his presidency.

    Duterte’s turbulent six-year term ended in June, and was succeeded by Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who took office on June 30 following a landslide election victory.

    Markey and his delegation met Marcos Jr at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila on Thursday.

    Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr greets US Senator Edward Markey. PHOTO: AP

    After the meeting, Marcos Jr said he looked forward “to continuing our partnership with the US in the areas of renewable energy use, agricultural development, economic reform, and mitigation of drug problems.”

    A top critic of Duterte, the 62-year-old de Lima has been locked up for more than five years and has accused the former president and his then-deputies of fabricating the non-bailable drug-linked charges that landed her in jail in February 2017.

    Her arrest and detention effectively stopped her at the time as a senator from investigating the widespread killings under Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs.

    Duterte had insisted on her guilt, saying witnesses testified that she received payoffs from imprisoned drug lords. Several witnesses, however, have recently recanted their allegations against her, re-igniting calls for the Marcos Jr administration to free her.

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