Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Philippines tells US: Respect our laws

The Philippine embassy in Washington yesterday called on the United States to respect the country’s laws and processes after President Donald Trump signed the 2020 budget with a provision banning Philippine officials involved in the allegedly wrongful detention of Sen. Leila de Lima from entering the US.

“All countries have the sovereign prerogative to allow or ban individuals from entering their borders,” the embassy said in a statement. “We strongly advise the United States to respect our own laws and processes in the same way that we respect theirs,” it added.

In a post on Twitter, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the measure “has to do with 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 tweeted.

Trump signed into law the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Bill 2020 on Friday, part of the US government’s $1.4-trillion spending package. The US budget includes an amendment authorizing the US Secretary of State to prohibit the entry of Philippine officials behind De Lima’s detention.

A provision in the budget on “Prohibition on Entry” allows US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “apply sub-section (c) to foreign government officials about whom the Secretary has credible information have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment of… Sen. Leila de Lima who was arrested in the Philippines in 2017.”

The provision is in line with the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, allowing the US government to impose sanctions on foreign government officials implicated in human rights abuses in any part of the world. These actions target serious human rights abuse and corruption on a global scale, demonstrating the United States’ action to pursue tangible and significant consequences for those who undermine the rule of law, disregard internationally accepted human rights standards and threaten the stability of international political and economic systems.

Democrat Sens. Patrick Leahy and Richard Durbin proposed the amendment to the appropriations bill that seeks to ban Philippine government officials involved in De Lima’s case.

Philippines tells From Page 2 In September, the US Senate appropriations committee passed the amendment to deny entry to any Philippine official involved in the two-year detention of De Lima.

Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez branded as “unacceptable” and a form of interference in the country’s domestic affairs the proposed US travel ban.

Romualdez issued the statement in reaction to the US Senate panel’s approval of the resolution denying entry to any Philippine official involved in De Lima’s detention.

He said it was “unfortunate” that Leahy and Durbin proposed an amendment to the appropriations bill in a bid to prevent Philippine officials from entering the US. The amendment approved at the committee level, Romualdez said, should take into consideration that the Philippines has its own judicial procedures.

Romualdez pointed that due process has been observed in De Lima’s case.

De Lima hits justice chief

De Lima has chided Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra for downplaying the US Senate resolution calling for her immediate release and the dropping of charges against her by branding it as “trash” and unlawful.

De Lima noted that the US resolution does not violate Philippine laws as it is similar to any domestic or international call for her freedom, only with additional call to sanction her persecutors.

“Justice Secretary Guevarra thinks US Senate Resolution 142 is trash, and that I should just wait for my trial to finish. That is easy to say for someone not in jail and who is responsible for the continuation of injustice that is my incarceration based on fabricated charges,” she said. “It does not violate the country’s judicial process. It just so happened that in the case of the US Senate, the call is backed up with serious potential sanctions that will hurt my persecutors, including Guevarra himself. Hence, it has the punch that Guevarra and other members of the Duterte government fear,” she added.

Some senators, however, viewed the US Senate resolution as interfering in the independence of the Philippines.

On Dec. 11, the US Senate foreign relations committee unanimously approved the resolution asking the Philippine government to free De Lima and to drop the drug charges filed against her, as well as Rappler’s Maria Ressa. The resolution also called on US President Donald Trump to impose sanctions against Philippine officials responsible for De Lima’s persecution and security forces and government officials who perpetrated extrajudicial killings as provided in the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

Guevarra reportedly said that the Philippine government would not heed the call made by American lawmakers.

He said the US bipartisan resolution was supposedly against the country’s rule of law because it calls for the disruption of the judicial process.

De Lima reminded Guevarra that he was the one who discarded the rule of law when he allowed “criminal convicts to stand as state witnesses against me, in violation of the law.”