PH gov’t ‘not bothered’ by US entry ban on De Lima jailers

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Monday said it is not bothered by a newly-signed law containing a provision banning Philippine government officials from entering the United States if they are proven to be involved in the detention of Senator Leila de Lima.

“We are not bothered by it. First, that’s their process, we cannot intrude in the same way when we react when they intrude into our processes,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

On December 20, Friday, US President Donald Trump signed into law the 2020 State, Foreign Operations and Related Program Appropriations Bill which included an amendment to deny entry to the US of Philippine government officials involved in De Lima’s detention.

A provision on the law allows US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to prohibit entry to government officials if he has credible information on their involvement in the “wrongful imprisonment” of the Filipino senator.

De Lima, one of Duterte’s fierce critics, has been detained since 2017 over her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade. She has repeatedly denied the charges.

But according to Panelo, the law’s provision cannot be simply imposed.

“It cannot be just imposed because there is a colatilla; there must be credible information. If the information is not credible then the Secretary of State cannot just impose that sanction,” he said.

The Palace official also insisted that De Lima was accorded due process and that there is “probable cause” to issue a warrant for her arrest.

Panelo also shrugged off De Lima’s claim that he and President Rodrigo Duterte were those behind her “wrongful” detention.

“The secretary of state with the two senators who introduced that amendment is better informed and educated on the internal judicial process of this country and would necessary follow his informed judgement,” he said.

Democrat Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy authored the amendment in the US 2020 budget which was approved by the US Senate Appropriations Committee in September. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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