By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang advised United States senators Patrick Leahy and Dick Durbin to consult their ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim about the country’s local processes as their stand on the case of Senator Leila de Lima was coming from either ignorance or bias.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement after Leahy and Durbin urged the Duterte government to either release De Lima or immediately provide her the fair, public trial she was entitled to, instead of threatening the travel of Filipino Americans.
In a statement, Panelo said it was time for the two lawmakers to acquire some knowledge about how the processes in the Philippines work before opening their mouths and speak from either ignorance or bias.
“Allegations of violation of human rights on Senator de Lima’s case are coming from either absolute ignorance or shameful bias,” he said Tuesday.
“It is high time for these US Senators to consult their US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Yong Kim who is knowledgeable on our local processes before they start blabbering further nonsense,” he added.
According to the Philippines, the call of Leahy and Durbin to free De Lima was not only an interference into the country’s sovereignty but was also a misplaced one.
“The call of these foreign officials to release Senator Leila de Lima, who is presently facing charges before an independent Philippine court, is a brazen interference into our sovereignty. Their alternative demand to provide the lady senator a fair, speedy and credible trial is totally misplaced because precisely, that is being given her by the hearing court as required by the Constitution,” Panelo said.
“If any party feels that such constitutional guarantee is not being observed, then such party should avail of appropriate remedial measures under Philippine law instead of resorting to unfair publicity stunts,” he added.
According to Panelo, any undue persuasion that tramples upon the country’s judicial processes or puts any form of tension on the officers of the courts relative to De Lima’s case must be condemned since he wrongful acts violated the Philippines’ criminal statutes.
US President Donald Trump recently signed their 2020 budget which contained the provision giving the Secretary of State the authority to ban Filipino officials from entering their homeland if there was credible information that they had a hand in De Lima’s detention.
In response, President Duterte ordered for the Philippines to require Americans to secure a visa first before entering the country should the United States ban any Filipino official from entering their territory by reason De Lima’s imprisonment. He likewise ordered the Bureau of Immigration to deny Durbin and Leahy entry to the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Panelo said Durbin’s remark that the Duterte administration should stop threatening the travel of Filipino-Americans from the US to Philippine territory was also misplaced.
“Filipinos residing or sojourning in America, or our Balikbayans, are not covered by our ultimatum should the US Government pursue banning the entry of Filipino officials acting in accordance with Philippine law apropos Senator de Lima’s case,” he said.
The Palace official said imposing requirements in securing a visa to foreign nationals prior to entry into the Philippines was an exercise of a sovereign right and was not an insult to any particular community.
“They have been requiring Filipinos to secure a US visa before we can travel into their homeland. As the community of nation believes in, ‘diplomacy is equality,'” Panelo said.