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Proposed entry ban by US senators not meant to ‘personally attack’ Duterte, PH judicial process – De Lima

/ 05:18 PM September 30, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The proposal by two U.S. senators for a travel ban on Philippine officials involved in the “wrongful imprisonment” of Senator Leila de Lima is not a personal attack on President Rodrigo Duterte or the country’s judicial process.

De Lima issued this statement on Monday amid criticisms over the proposal of the two American legislators.

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De Lima, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, has been in detention since February 2017 on drug charges.

“US Senators Durbin and Leahy did not propose such visa ban to personally attack Mr. Duterte, our country, and our judicial process,” De Lima said.

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“They only want to sanction abusive government officials by preventing them from entering their country,” she added.

She further said that it is the prerogative of the U.S. to prohibit entry of Philippine officials involved in human rights violations and abuses.

“It is the prerogative of the US to impose an ‘entry ban’ on Filipino officials involved in human rights violations and abuses,” she noted.

“This is in no way meddling in our country’s internal affairs. Countries, including the US, are sovereign on who they want to allow or disallow into their territory,” she added.

The said proposal was an amendment offered by Senator Richard Durbin and Senator Patrick Leahy on the Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, which is currently being tackled by the U.S. Senate’s appropriations committee.

The committee approved the Durbin-Leahy initiative last week.

Aside from De Lima’s case, the amended US Senate bill also referred to other cases of “wrongful detention” in other countries and sought the same prohibition on the entry of certain “officials of the governments of Turkey, Egypt or Saudi Arabia.”

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Malacañang, however, called the proposal a “brazen attempt to intrude into the country’s domestic legal processes given that the subject cases against the detained senator are presently being heard by our local courts.”

READ: Palace to US Senate panel: Mind your own business 

Some of De Lima’s colleagues at the Senate also slammed the proposed entry ban, with one saying that Durbin and Leahy were “just trying to meddle when they don’t even know about [De Lima’s] case.”

“Mga pakialamero hindi naman nila alam ang kaso (They like to meddle without knowing what the case is about),” Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said.

READ: Sotto: US senators meddling in PH affairs without knowing De Lima case 

Meanwhile, Senate Christopher “Bong” Go said he would ask the President to retaliate by also denying the two American senators entry to the Philippines.

READ: Go to ask President Duterte to ban US senators supporting De Lima from PH 

“US Senators Durbin and Leahy did not propose such visa ban to personally attack Mr. Duterte, our country, and our judicial process. They only want to sanction abusive government officials by preventing them from entering their country,” De Lima went on.

She explained that the idea of a visa ban is not entirely new in the U.S.

De Lima cited the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA), which was signed into law by U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018.

“The ARIA, which focuses, among others, on issues such as human rights and terrorism, especially in Southeast Asia, actually allows for the visa ban and other appropriate sanctions in the United States against foreigners involved in abuses and human rights violations,” she said.

The senator, meanwhile, thanked the Durbin and Leahy as well as other human rights defenders “for reminding the world that the continued human rights violation under the Duterte administration do not go unnoticed.”

“The amended US bill proves that impunity while remaining unchecked in our country, may find an end in the ‘land of the free and home of the brave’,” she said.

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