US President Donald Trump has approved Washington’s 2020 budget that includes a provision denying entry to those involved in jailing opposition Senator Leila de Lima—an action that Malacañang says does not bother it.The provision, an amendment in the 2020 State and foreign operations appropriations bill, was part of the US government’s 2020 budget signed into law by Trump Friday, Dec. 20 (Saturday in Manila).The entry prohibition tasks US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to prohibit from entering the US the Philippine officials about whom he has “credible information [to] have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment” of De Lima. The section “Prohibition on Entry” says the US Secretary of State “shall apply subsection (c) to foreign government officials about whom the Secretary has credible information have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment of…. Senator Leila de Lima who was arrested in the Philippines in 2017.”The provision also calls for the same action against officials of the Egyptian government and government officials of Turkey, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia over “wrongful detention” of American citizens or locally employed staff of a US diplomatic mission.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo brushed aside the measure, saying there was no credible information to prove that the Duterte administration was behind the imprisonment of De Lima, a vocal critic of the government’s anti-drug campaign.“We are not bothered by it. First, it’s their process; we cannot intrude [into], in the same way that we react when they intrude into our processes. Number two, the very provision says there must be credible information before they ban any official in the Philippines,” Panelo told reporters.“It cannot just be imposed… There must be a credible information. If the information is not credible, then the US Secretary of State will not impose such sanction,” he added.Asked if there was a credible information that would prove government officials were behind the charges against the senator, Panelo said: “There is none.”The US State Department has yet to release a list of Philippine officials who will be banned from entering the US.
In related developments:
• Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he was “shockingly disappointed” with Trump’s approval of the decision and left it to the Department of Foreign Affairs to make an official policy statement. “I will leave it to our foreign affairs secretary to comment on this development. This issue is much bigger than the prosecution of Senator De Lima on drug charges under Philippine laws. This involves issues of sovereignty and non-interference among co-equal nations,” Guevarra said in a text message sent to reporters. “As for me, I don’t give a damn . . . if I’m included in the US list. I’m not the one who has to answer to my conscience,” said Guevarra.
• Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. agreed with Guevarra that the US ban on the entry of the so-called “persecutors” or “jailers” of De Lima had impact on the country’s sovereignty.“Yes, it has to do with sovereignty which if we waive here we may as well waive it to China and give Subic and Clark,” Locsin twitted on Monday.Nonetheless, Locsin downplayed the relevance of US policy on the De Lima case.“The only way for accused to go free is after trial; if convicted after pardon. Resolutions by legislature/ executive—native or alien—are of no moment,” Locsin stressed.
“US can refuse visas to anyone it wants for any reason; the PH deported a nun in that way. It is an aspect of sovereignty,” he said.
• Senate President Vicente Sotto III slammed the United States for interfering with other countries’ justice systems “without even investigating.”The US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill has a visa ban on Filipino government officials found to be involved in De Lima’s detention.Sotto said Trump’s act only showed that US meddled with other countries’ justice system without even investigating.
• Also in the Senate, Senator Panfilo Lacson said allowing and denying the entry of foreigners into the territory of the United States, or any country, was a matter of right of that host country. “They don’t even have to justify it,” said Lacson. “ What is unacceptable is the passage of a resolution by the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that calls for the dismissal of charges against any respondent in a criminal case, in this case, Senator De Lima and Maria Ressa,” said Lacson. He noted it was an affront to the integrity of the courts and the country’s judicial system. He said even the President or any executive official, or any member of our Congress, could not issue a formal resolution that would encroach on the power of a co-equal branch of government.
Lima, in a press release sent to reporters last October, identified several government officials whom she claimed to be involved in her detention.Included in her list was President Rodrigo Duterte whom she said “took a direct hand in controlling the inmates-witnesses” who testified against her alleged link in illegal drug trade when she was still justice secretary. Panelo, who also serves as President Duterte’s chief legal counsel, was included in her list as he failed to advise the President that violating her human rights and depriving her of her freedom were “abuses offensive to justice and humanity.
”Also included were online bloggers Mocha Uson, Sass Rogando Sasot, and RJ Nieto who were part of “a daily public media demolition.”De Lima also named lawmakers in the House of Representatives who were part of a probe where “criminal convicts were induced to testify” against her “in exchange for prison privileges and immunity, if not presidential pardon.”These lawmakers were former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Solicitor General Jose Calida, Public Attorney Office Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, Sandra Cam, Dante Jimenez, and Congressmen Rey Umali and Rudy Fariñas.De Lima has been detained since February 2017 and repeatedly denied the accusations, calling the allegations against her as “political persecution.
posted December 24, 2019 at 01:45 am by MJ Blancaflor and Rey E. Requejo, Macon Ramos-Araneta
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