De Lima thanks US Congress for travel restriction on detainers

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
De Lima thanks US Congress for travel restriction on detainers

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Leila de Lima on Monday thanked the United States Congress for setting into motion a bill that recognized her "wrongful" imprisonment and for what she said was their defense of human rights. 

This came after US President Donald Trump on Monday approved the US 2020 budget bill which included a provision that banned those involved in what they said was the "wrongful imprisonment" of De Lima from entering the United States.

READ: 2020 US budget includes ban on people behind 'wrongful imprisonment' of De Lima

"This latest development signals the fact that impunity cannot last and that one way or another, justice will catch up with those who choose to do injustice to others. This also signifies a solid recognition by the US government that I am a clear victim of political persecution," she said in a statement. 

Of the passage of the provision, Justice Secretary Menardo Gueverra opted to stay silent, saying he did not care if he was included in the final list. 

"I will leave it to our foreign affairs secretary to comment on this development," he said. 

"This issue is much bigger than the prosecution of Senator De Lima on drug charges under Philippine laws. this involves issues of sovereignty and non-interference among co-equal nations."

Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act

The provision in question touches on Financial Management and Budget Transparency and includes a clause on Prohibition on Entry that says, "the Secretary has credible information (sic.) [on government officials who] have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment of: [...] Senator Leila de Lima who was arrested in the Philippines in 2017."

Tensions between the two governments escalated after US Sen. Dick Durbin announced in late September that the Senate appropriations committee had approved the measure. “We must free Leila now,” he tweeted. 

In response, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo called the move "a brazen attempt to intrude into our country's domestic legal processes."

On Monday afternoon, Panelo reiterated the Palace stance that her arrest "cannot be a wrongful detention." 

The Malacañang mouthpiece also said that the Palace is unbothered by the passage of the bill. 

De Lima in her statement made mention of the proposed US Senate Foreign Relations Resolution 142 which, she said, "calls on the US President to implement the sanctions provided in the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act."

The aforementioned act gives the executive branch of the United States government the power, should they deem necessary, to impose travel restrictions and financial penalties on those deemed to be human rights violators anywhere in the world. The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act was invoked in the provision.  

Even the European Parliament in 2017 has called for the senator's release. 

READ: De Lima: EU Parliament's actions not an interference

The US State Department, as of this writing, has not yet released a list of Philippine officials who may not enter the United States, although the 60-year-old De Lima named those she said were involved in her detention in an October press release. 

Crime against humanity

"My persecution started with a daily public media demolition by none other than Duterte, using all his powers as President. This was followed by a vicious social media campaign conducted by DDS Trolls, led by Duterte sycophants Mocha Uson, Sass Rogando Sasot, and RJ Nieto," she said in her dispatch from Crame.

"Then came the House investigation where criminal convicts were induced to testify against me in exchange for prison privileges and immunity, if not presidential pardon, as led by former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, former DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Solicitor General Jose Calida, PAO Chief Persida Acosta, Sandra Cam, Dante Jimenez, Congressmen Rey Umali and Rudy Fariñas."

De Lima, who has long been known as a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, has been in detention since 2017. She has long held that the allegations against her are trumped-up and politically motivated.

"Systematic and widespread violation of human rights, like what we experience under the Duterte regime, is not an exercise of sovereignty or independence," she said. 

"It is a crime against humanity that must be condemned and punished with sanctions by the community of nations, as it is now being punished by the US Congress."

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