US ban sought on Phl execs in De Lima detention
In a tweet, US Sen. Dick Durbin (Democrat-Illinois) lauded the US Senate’s appropriations committee for passing the amendment he proposed with Sen. Patrick Leahy to the Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill. The amendment to a provision on prohibition of entry to the US seeks a ban on ‘any Philippine government official involved in the politically motivated imprisonment of Filipina Senator Leila de Lima (right) in 2017.’

US ban sought on Phl execs in De Lima detention

Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) - September 28, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A US Senate panel has approved an amendment to a bill seeking to ban the entry of any Philippine government official involved in the detention of Sen. Leila de Lima.

Malacañang slammed the move, calling it interference and an insult to a sovereign state.

US Sen. Richard Durbin lauded the approval by the Senate appropriations committee of the amendment he proposed with Sen. Patrick Leahy in connection with what he dubbed as the politically motivated detention of De Lima. 

“Good to see the Senate Appropriations Committee pass my amendment with @SenatorLeahy today to prohibit entry to any Philippine Government Officials involved in the politically motivated imprisonment of Filipina Senator Leila de Lima in 2017,” he said in his Twitter account yesterday.

Durbin, along with four other US senators, earlier filed a resolution calling for the release of De Lima. The others were Senators Marco Rubio, Ed Markey, Marsha Blackburn and Chris Coons.

Under the bill titled “Prohibition on Entry,” the US Secretary of State “shall apply sub-section (c) to foreign government officials about whom the Secretary has credible information have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment of… Senator Leila de Lima who was arrested in the Philippines in 2017.”?The 60-year-old De Lima, a vocal critic of President Duterte, has been detained since February 2017 at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame over drug charges.

The opposition senator has denied involvement in the illegal drug trade, saying the charges against her were part of political persecution by the Duterte administration.

De Lima is not entitled to bail and if found guilty, faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Malacañang decried yesterday the decision of a US Senate panel to ban the entry of Philippine government officials involved in the prosecution of De Lima.

Calling it interference on the Philippines’ sovereignty, presidential spokesman and chief presidential legal adviser Salvador Panelo described the move as insulting and offensive coming from another country.

“It seeks to place pressure upon our independent institutions, thereby effectively interfering with our nation’s sovereignty,” Panelo said.

Panelo said the Palace considers the undertaking as a brazen attempt to intrude into the country’s domestic legal processes since De Lima’s case is pending in the local courts, he said.

“It is an insult to the competence and capacity of our duly constituted authorities as such act makes it appear that this US Senate panel has the monopoly of what is right and just. It is an outright disrespect to our people’s clamor for law and order,” Panelo said.

Consistent with our position against sovereign interference, Panelo said the Palace won’t respond any further to the group of American legislators.

Neither will the government initiate any repulsive action to reverse its decision. 

“We shall respect their democratic processes, be these in the form of a congressional measure or an immigration policy. We shall leave it to the international community to ascertain which nation values the rule of law in accordance with the principle of state sovereignty,” he said.

Panelo reiterated that De Lima is no prisoner of conscience. 

“The fact that she belongs to the political opposition is irrelevant to her charges of illegal drug-related transgressions which she allegedly committed while she was justice secretary,” he said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the US senators are meddling into the country’s internal judicial affairs.

“They are meddlers when they don’t know the case. She (De Lima) is innocent until proven guilty but those US senators are not judges here in the Philippines,” Sotto said.

“I don’t think our own legislature, no matter the perceived weaknesses and flaws we may suffer from, would even consider conducting a committee hearing in case a legislator will file a bill of similar nature,” said Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

He noted that admission into a country is a matter of privilege, not a right.

Therefore, in an unlikely scenario that it passes scrutiny of the entire US Congress and is enacted into law, those who will fall under the classification as mentioned in the bill “may have to face the reality that they have to stop thinking of visiting the US,” he said.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, a colleague of De Lima in the opposition bloc, supported the move in the US Senate.

“Sen. Leila de Lima stood up against the mass murder of our people as we all should. She is being unlawfully detained for almost 1,000 days now for speaking out against the killings of poor, powerless Filipino citizens in the administration’s so-called war on drugs,” Pangilinan said. – With Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero

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