Fri. Aug 6th, 2021

MANILA – Malacañang on Wednesday said that detained Senator Leila de Lima was herself a “violator of human rights” and her name should also be on the list of people who should be banned from traveling to the US.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this statement after de Lima’s camp confirmed that she has submitted a list of Philippine officials who should be banned from entering the US for their involvement in her detention.

“Yung (The) amendment refers to violators of human rights diumano and allegedly she is one of those victims but she’s forgetting that she’s also a violator of human rights. Kaya nga siya nakademanda eh (That’s why there are charges filed against her),” he said.

De Lima, a staunch critic of Duterte, has been detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center at Camp Crame in Quezon City since February 2017 following her alleged role in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City during her stint as justice secretary.

Panelo, also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, was referring to the move of US Senators Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy to introduce an amendment to the 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill which sought to ban the Filipino officials behind de Lima’s “wrongful imprisonment”.

A provision of the US 2020 budget earlier signed by Trump, titled “Prohibition of Entry,” gives US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the authority to prevent Philippine officials involved in de Lima’s detention from entering the United States.

US President Donald Trump signed the 2020 national budget, which included that provision in December 2019.

But Panelo said that de Lima should even be first on her list of officials who should be banned.

“Kung hindi niya nilagay yung pangalan niya dun na number 1, eh mali yung listahan niya on the assumption na totoo yung sinasabi niya. Kasama siya dun dapat (If she did not include her name there as number 1, then the list is wrong on the assumption that what she is saying is true. She should be on that list),” he said.

Despite the inclusion of President Rodrigo Duterte on de Lima’s list, Panelo said it does not matter because the President has no desire to visit the US in the first place.

“He’s not interested. He’s not even interested in going there. He declined the invitation,” he said.

Last month, Panelo announced that Duterte has rejected Trump’s invitation to attend the Southeast Asian leaders’ summit in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 4.

He said the cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s US visa prompted Duterte to refuse to fly to Washington DC next month.

Duterte has also been irked by the “demand” of the US Senate for de Lima’s release, noting that he would not allow American lawmakers to “bully” the Philippine government.

In an earlier speech, Duterte said he was dismayed that the US Senate believed in the “lies” peddled by his critics, including the Liberal Party (LP), regarding de Lima’s case.

“And the Americans simply do not believe that a (former) Secretary of Justice is (capable) of receiving the money to finance or to ensure the victory. And they rode on the issue that it is a trumped-up charge, (as claimed) by the opposition, the Yellow, the Liberals, and by the communists. And so they started to believe in the lies of the opposite side,” Duterte said in an exclusive interview with Russia Today.

Duterte, a former prosecutor, has dismissed de Lima was “wrongfully imprisoned”, insisting that she was given a fair public trial as part of due process since the investigating prosecutor and the judge have found probable cause to pursue charges and issue a warrant of arrest against her. (PNA)

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