By Ben Rosario
The leader of the opposition in the House of Representatives Friday assailed members of the US Senate Committee on Appropriations for approving a proposal to ban Philippine government officials involved in the detention of opposition Senator Leila De Lima from entering the United States.
Abante called on the American lawmakers to drop the US entry prohibition, saying that this was a “slap on the face of Philippine sovereignty.”
“Whatever one’s position on the detention of Sen. de Lima, one cannot countenance what is a blatant attempt to interfere in our legal processes and meddle in our affairs,” said Abante
“This is highly irregular, especially because the trial is ongoing and the judges are still hearing the case. These US senators are essentially telling the judges that if they find Sen. de Lima guilty, they will be barred from entering the United States,” said the Lower House’s top oppositionist.
The progressive Makabayan bloc, whose members are staunch critics of the United States and human rights advocates, did not issue any statement.
American senators belonging to the appropriations committee have approved an amendment to a pending measure that sought to deny entry to the United States officials of the Duterte government who have contributed in the filing of charges and eventual detention of De Lima, who used to head the Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines.
De Lima was appointed to the CHR by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Later appointed by Arroyo’s political foe and successor, former President Benigno Aquino III, De Lima was instrumental in having the lady president arrested and detained on trumped-up charges that the Supreme Court later dismissed.
Arroyo had been placed under “hospital detention” for over four years while De Lima, current a senator, is now on her second-year confinement in a police detention center.
The US senators decision was lauded by Sen. Dick Durbin who has been accusing the Duterte government of having political motives in detaining De Lima.
So far, only Abante has come up with a statement deploring the US Senate panel’s decision.
Duterte allies in the majority bloc have yet to issue their own commentary on the issue.
“How can we expect the judges to be completely impartial in the face of this development? This is an attack on Philippine judicial independence,” said Abante.
De Lima is facing drug charges which have been filed in the sala of Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 205 Judge Leizel Aquiatan and Judge Gener Gito.
“I sincerely hope that other US senators will have the good sense to oppose a move that reeks of disrespect for a nation that has been their ally and friend for over half a century,” the lawmaker added. According to Abante, American lawmakers “should be more circumspect when dealing with matters that fall outside their jurisdiction.”
Abante further stated: “If they believe that Senator de Lima should be set free, then it is their right to express their opinion. But it is another thing altogether to bully another government’s judicial officers into acquiescing to their demands.”