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Panelo on US senators: Parang 'di sila nag-aaral

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Panelo on US senators: Parang 'di sila nag-aaral
Malacañang on Dec. 14, 2019 expressed its “grave concern” on a recently approved United States Senate resolution that calls for the release of detained Sen. Leila de Lima.
Office of the Presidential Spokesperson Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo slammed anew the two United States senators behind a provision banning the arrestors of detained Sen. Leila de Lima.

Panelo said he met with United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim in a "private gathering" where the latter told him that he agreed with his statements. 

READ: De Lima thanks US Congress for travel restriction on detainers

US Senators were barred by the Duterte administration from entering the Philippines in response to the provision. 

"Parang di sila nag-aaral," the Malacañang mouthpiece said on Thursday in an interview with ANC's "Early Edition."

"In other words, they don't want to listen to reason If they would only study, like for instance, they should consult the US ambassador because he's here every day. He knows what is happening." 

This is the latest statement in a back-and-forth spat between the two administrations. US Senator Patrick Leahy, in his own statement, also said the Philippine administration should give De Lima a fair trial instead of barring US senators. 

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

For Panelo, the provision is indicative of an entity the administration has yet to identify who is strongly influencing popular opinion on Duterte. 

"I think there is a strong lobby coming from whoever is against this administration. That's usually how it works," Panelo said, although admitting he did not know who this was. 

"When some outlets keep on harping on the same issue repeatedly, nagkakaroon ng semblance of truth. Kaya napapaniwala mo ang mga nandoon, outside of this country."

'Rule of law'

The Palace has already made promises of a just trial for the opposition senator, a claim that De Lima has belied.

"As far as we're concerned, we have our processes. We observe due process in this country. The rule of law prevails," Panelo added.

"It is for them outside of this country to respect the processes of this country. Otherwise it's an assault on our sovereignty. What if we ask US Senate not to convict Trump? Isn't it interference with processes?"

On the contrary, the rule of law in the Philippines was actually listed as among the weakest in a report by the World Justice Project’s annual Rule of Law Index.

READ: Philippine rule of law among the weakest despite improved global ranking — report

De Lima has received strong support from the international community dating back to the start of her detention, which has seen her celebrate her third Christmas in a row behind bars. 

“Senator de Lima’s two years in custody show the lengths the Duterte administration will go to stifle dissent and threaten human rights defenders who demand accountability for violations,” said John Samuel, executive director of FORUM-ASIA, in a statement published by the Human Rights Watch in February 2019. 

“The government’s fabricated charges against her only reflect how compromised its institutions have become under the present administration.”

Perfect relations?

Despite the spite between the two administrations over De Lima's arrest, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. told reporters that relations between the two are "perfect."

READ: US-Philippines ties still 'perfect' despite travel ban on De Lima detainers — Locsin

This, despite the Chief Executive's pro-China foreign policy since he entered office. Duterte has long been vocal about his intention to distance from the US, a longtime ally of the country. 

Regardless, US President Donald Trump and Duterte have long been on amiable terms with one another. The former has expressed support for Duterte's drug war, which human rights activists say has claimed over 27,000 lives, in a move that supposedly left White House execs "genuinely horrified." 

The presidential spokesperson also said that the possibility that he might be banned did not bother him. 

"In the first place I am not intending to go there. In the second place, that is the right of every state. That is an exercise of their sovereign right to ban anybody in their country in the same way that we can ban others," he said. 

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN SALVADOR PANELO

SEN. LEILA DE LIMA

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