By Daniel Llanto
FilAm Star Correspondent
Malacañang lashed at the proposal approved in the US Senate to ban the entry of Philippine officials involved in the “politically motivated” imprisonment of Sen. Leila de Lima, describing the plan as insulting and offensive — often their refrain when confronted with criticism.
The ban from American soil would cover practically the entire Philippine officialdom, since the alleged drug involvement case against De Lima was brought by President Duterte himself.
But Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said: “Who cares? The US is not the only country that you can go to and enjoy the sites and the sounds.”
Earlier the US Senate appropriations committee approved an amendment to a bill seeking to ban the entry of any Philippine government official involved in the detention of De Lima.
US Sen. Richard Durbin lauded the approval by the Senate panel of the amendment he proposed with Sen. Patrick Leahy.
“Good to see the Senate Appropriations Committee pass my amendment with @SenatorLeahy today to prohibit entry to any Philippine government official involved in the politically motivated imprisonment of Filipina Sen. Leila de Lima in 2017,” he said in his Twitter account.
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 Sen. Leila de Lima who was arrested in the Philippines in 2017.”
The 60-year-old De Lima, a vocal critic of 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.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan 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.
In separate statements, Sen. Risa Hontiveros and the so-called Free Leila Movement expressed support for the decision.
Hontiveros said the proposed travel ban pushed by US Senators Richard Durbin (Illinois) and Patrick Leahy (Vermont), proved that “the world is watching and that the world will act.”
Rebutting Panelo, she also said that the move shows no intrusion into Philippine sovereignty.
“They are in fact the consequences of being part of the international community where countries, respective of each other’s sovereignty, help one another to uphold the principles of human rights and democracy,” Hontiveros 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..
“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.
“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.