Palace: Provision barring De Lima jailers from US actually exists
A CBP officer processes a passenger in this photo from the US Customs and Border Protection website
US Customs and Border Protection website

Palace: Provision barring De Lima jailers from US actually exists

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - December 29, 2019 - 3:16pm

MANILA, Philippines — The entry ban to the United States on officials involved in the detention of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima is "true," Malacañang said Sunday, as it reiterated its threat to require Americans going to the Philippines to secure a visa if the restriction is imposed.

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump signed into law America's 2020 budget containing an amendment allowing his state secretary Mike Pompeo to bar those involved in de Lima's detention from entering the US.

A provision on "Prohibition on Entry" authorizes the US State secretary to apply sub-section (c) to foreign government officials about whom the secretary has "credible information" have been involved in the "wrongful" imprisonment of de Lima. Sub-section (c) pertains to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which allows the US government to impose sanctions on individuals tied to human rights violations, including prohibiting them from entering the US.

RJ Nieto, a pro-Duterte blogger and one of the persons who de Lima claimed are responsible for her arrest and detention, has dismissed the entry ban as "fake news," claiming there is no such provision in the final version of the US 2020 budget signed by Trump.

Philippine Embassy, Palace confirm ban

But presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo confirmed in a radio interview that the amendment exists.

"I was talking to (Philippine) Ambassador (to the US Jose Manuel) Babes Romualdez. He said he checked the law and the provision exists," Panelo said.

"Totoo yung ban (The ban is true)," he added.

Panelo said Romualdez talked to US Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy, authors of the entry ban amendment, but they had already made up their minds on the issue.

"Apparently, somebody lobbied for it," the Palace spokesman said.

Panelo, also in de Lima's list of people whom she claimed are responsible for her detention, said it does not matter whether the travel ban is true or not.

"What's important is if they ban any government official, then we will require (American citizens) to apply for a visa and we will ban the two senators (from entering the Philippines)," he said.

READ: Free De Lima instead of threatening visa restrictions, US senator says

Palace: Credible info needed

Panelo reiterated that the entry ban could not be enforced until the US state secretary finds credible information providing that de Lima, who is facing drug-related charges was wrongfully detained. De Lima has claimed that she is being persecuted by the Duterte administration for criticizing its crackdown on illegal drugs.

"They cannot just ban anybody there...In the first place, it's not a wrongful detention so how can there be a credible information?" he said.

Panelo claimed changing the visa rules on American citizens would not have an effect on the Philippines' foreign relations.

"We just don't want interference in our processes," the Palace spokesman said.

Panelo could not say whether the visa requirement would also apply to Filipino immigrants who have become American citizens.

"But of course, it would be different if you are a former Filipino citizen," he said.

READ: US State Department has process to follow in ban on De Lima's jailers — Panelo

Palace slams Leahy

Panelo also slammed Leahy for renewing his call for the Duterte administration to give de Lima a fair trial and to release her from detention.

"That only shows that he (Leahy) is ignorant...We have repeatedly explained the problem to them. They talk without studying the matter," he said.

Other individuals who de Lima claimed were behind her detention include President Duterte, former House speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Solicitor General Jose Calida, Public Attorneys’ Office chief Persida Acosta, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office board member Sandra Cam, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Dante Jimenez, Rep. Rey Umali, former Rep. Rudy Fariñas, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration deputy executive director and blogger Mocha Uson and blogger Sass Rogando Sasot.

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