A spokesman for Leahy, David Carle, said De Lima was being persecuted for her stand against human rights abuses in the conduct of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
US senator insists De Lima detention politically motivated
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - December 29, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — One of the two US senators banned by the Duterte administration from entering the Philippines has insisted the prosecution of Sen. Leila de Lima on drug charges was politically motivated.

The ban on Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sen. Dick Durbin was apparently in retaliation for their authoring a provision in the US budget law barring Philippine officials involved in the detention of De Lima from entering the US.

A spokesman for Leahy, David Carle, said De Lima was being persecuted for her stand against human rights abuses in the conduct of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

The US embassy in Manila and the State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the ban on the US senator, but Leahy – through Carle – called the charges against de Lima politically motivated.

“This is about the right of Filipino citizens – and people everywhere – to freely express their opinions, including opinions that may be critical of government policies that involve the use of excessive force and the denial of due process,” Carle said.

In Manila, Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor is calling on the Philippine embassy in Washington to appeal the ban on Philippine officials.

Defensor, chairman of the House committee on public accountability, said Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez should “work double time to avoid a diplomatic crisis with the US.”

“It is his role to reach out to the US government, the Senate included, to explain the circumstances that led to the detention of Sen. De Lima and other human rights issues being raised by the US government,” Defensor said in a statement.

He expressed belief the issue could be settled once the American officials learn of the nature of the case of De Lima and how it went through regular and legal processes.

“While we deplore the interference of the US government on the internal affairs of the nation, which at this stage involves not only the executive but the judiciary, it is also incumbent upon us to explain the situation in the Philippines,” he said. “The issues hounding the President and the Philippine government can easily be explained and clarified,” he said.

The lawmaker said the US government and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights should “be actively engaged” on the issue and listen to the side of the Philippine government.

“Foreign governments and their nationals have seen what the country has accomplished and the ‘true’ human rights situation and I am confident that if explained, the President will enjoy the high global trust ratings that he is enjoying in the country,” Defensor added.

What fake news?

Meanwhile, De Lima laughed off allegations by pro-Duterte blogger Thinking Pinoy that the US travel ban on some Philippine officials was fake news.

“To ‘Thinking Pinoy,’ I note with gladness that you at least made the effort to look up the Appropriations Law before commenting. However, interpreting US Appropriations Law requires more due diligence than just looking at one document and, thereafter, promptly concluding that it does not contain the provision banning my persecutors from entry into the US,” De Lima said in a statement.

De Lima explained that the operations of the US government are very broad and complex.

“In this case, the US Congress passed a large, single appropriations bill called an ‘omnibus bill,’ in which the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations (SFOPs) language is included.  The Final Bill is what you have presumably browsed,” said De Lima. “But the omnibus bill includes by reference as an intrinsic part thereof the Final Explanatory Statement, which makes reference to accompanying guiding reports,” she said.

She noted that in the first page of the Explanatory Statement, it states that unless specifically negated therein, the Report language originally included in the House and Senate SFOPs bill remains in force. 

“This brings us to the Senate SFOPs bill report language. The provision banning my persecutors is stated therein, and it was not specifically negated by the Explanatory Report. Hence, it remains in force,” she added.

“Let me summarize in four simple steps: Step 1 is look at the Final Bill, which refers to the Explanatory Statement. Step 2. Now, look at the Explanatory Statement, which makes reference to the House and Senate SFOPs bill Reports,” she pointed out.

She added step 3 is “Look at the Senate SFOPs bill Report, specifically top of page 93. There you will see what you are looking for. It’s the “Prohibition on Entry” provision which specifically mentions, and made applicable to, my situation.”

For step 4, “Go back to the Explanatory Statement and ask yourself – does it specifically negate the language you found on page 93? You will see that it does not.  Therefore, the entry ban is in effect. In short, it’s not fake news.” – Cecille Suerte-Felipe




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