Malacañang on Friday blasted the US Senate panel for approving a measure to ban from entry into the United States all officials involved in Senator Leila de Lima’s detention, calling it an intrusion into the country’s internal affairs and saying it treats the Philippines as an inferior state.
The Palace also asked the US to mind its own business, “as each nation has enough problems that its government should focus on.”
In a Twitter post, US Senator Dick Durbin praised the Senate appropriations committee for passing an amendment he and Senator Patrick Leahy, both Democrats, introduced to institute the ban.
“Good to see the Senate Appropriations Committee pass my amendment with @SenatorLeahy today to prohibit entry to any Philippine Government Officials involved in the politically motivated imprisonment of Filipina Senator Leila de Lima in 2017. We must #FreeLeilaNow,” Durbin said in his tweet.
Durbin was among five US senators—two Republicans and three Democrats—who filed a resolution condemning De Lima’s continued detention.
“The Palace considers such undertaking as a brazen attempt to intrude into our country’s domestic legal processes given that the subject cases against the detained senator are presently being heard by our local courts,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
He also said the proposed ban is an insult to government officials and “a form of disrespect to the public’s clamor for law and order.”
“It treats our country as an inferior state unqualified to run its own affairs. All sensible Filipinos, regardless of their political or social association, should feel affronted and disrespected by this insulting and offensive act,” Panelo said.
He also said the US panel makes it appear that it has the “monopoly” of what is right and just.
Panelo, however, said the government will not pursue action against the Senate panel decision.
“We shall respect their democratic processes, be these in the form of a congressional measure or an immigration policy,” he said.
“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 added.
De Lima has been detained since February 2017 for allegedly pocketing drug payoffs from convicted crime lords when she was still Justice secretary.
The senator has repeatedly denied the allegation, calling it “political persecution.”
Senator Panfilo Lacson said he could not understand the sense in the Senate committee’s move.
“Does it mean that all the witnesses who have testified against Senator De Lima, DOJ prosecutors who found probable cause, the RTC judges who issued the warrants, even the nine SC justices who voted with finality to affirm the detention of Senator De Lima will be banned from entering the US?” Lacson asked.
Lacson said the Philippine Congress would never consider approving a similar amendment if a legislator were to introduce it.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said his US counterparts were busybodies who knew nothing of the case.
While De Lima is innocent until proven guilty, he said, the US senators were not judges in the Philippines.
De Lima’s party mate, Senator Francis Pangilinan, said he supported the US Senate move.
“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.
The Liberal Party president also said they do not consider the US Senate’s action as interference in the affairs of a sovereign state.
Human beings everywhere, he said, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, class, religion, or gender— must speak out against mass murder.
“We welcome this move of the US senators, an act of solidarity not only for Senator Leila de Lima, but for all the murdered victims, and their orphans, widows, and mothers and fathers, who are now doubly
burdened by the absence of a loved one and in many, many cases a family breadwinner.”
De Lima, meanwhile, thanked United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for raising concern over her continued detention and the worsening human rights situation in the country.