By Hannah Torregoza
At least two senators slammed a United States (US) committee’s move to prohibit the entry of Philippine government officials that are involved in the imprisonment of Senator Leila de Lima.
Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said the move was clearly an “encroachment” of the country’s judicial system.
“Admission into a country is a matter of privilege, not a right. Therefore, in an unlikely scenario that it passes the scrutiny of the entire US Congress and enacted into a law, those who will fall under the classification as mentioned in the bill may have to face the reality that they have to stop thinking of visiting the US,” Lacson said when sought to comment on the issue.
“Having said that, not only a bill of such nature is uncalled for but a clear encroachment of the Philippines’ judicial system,” he stressed.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III also deplored the move, saying the US Senate should let the country’s judicial process run its course.
“Mga pakialamero hindi naman nila alam ang kaso, (they are meddling when in fact they do not know the case),” Sotto said in a separate text message.
“She is innocent until proven guilty, but those US senators are not judges here in the Philippines,” Sotto added.
De Lima has been detained since February 2017 at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center over her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) during her term as justice secretary.
The opposition senator has repeatedly denied the charges against her saying this was part of the Duterte administration’s political persecution on perceived enemies of the state.
Lacson said he doesn’t understand the purpose of the US measure on De Lima.
“I don’t understand the sense in that piece of legislation. Does it mean that all the witnesses who have testified against Sen. de Lima, DOJ prosecutors who found probable cause, the RTC judges who issued the warrants, even the 9 SC justices who voted with finality to affirm the detention of Sen de Lima will be banned from entering the US?” Lacson pointed out.
“I don’t think our own legislature, no matter the perceived weaknesses and flaws we may suffer from,” he pointed out.
“I won’t even consider conducting a committee hearing in case a legislator will file a bill of similar nature,” the former national police chief further said.