Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Monday, September 30, pointed out that the proposal of two United States senators to bar the entry on American soil of Philippine officials involved in Sen. Leila De Lima’s detention came from the minority of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee.
“That ban is just a proposal in a Senate committee and I think the views of the two senators are in the minority, otherwise some senators will have supported that,” he said.
“In other words that ban will only be effective upon the approval of both houses of Congress of the U.S.,” Panelo added.
The U.S. Senate’s Appropriations Committee on Friday, September 27, approved the amendment that seeks to prohibit entry to any Philippine government officials involved in the politically-motivated imprisonment of De Lima filed by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy.
Panelo also said Leahy was “ignorant of our procedural rules subjecting a person charged with the commission of a crime,” adding that the senator had not stepped foot in the country to personally examine the De Lima’s case.
“Hence in citing abuse of Philippine officials without an iota of proof he was speaking not only of blissful ignorance but unscented abuse,” he said in a statement.
“When Senator Leahy speaks of abuse he must be referring to his abuse of his freedom of expression, as he waxes a false and malicious narrative against our government officials with unparalleled arrogance and without a glint of remorse,” the spokesman added.
Additionally, Panelo slammed Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman for saying that “the freedom of public discourse allows officials of one country to criticize or even condemn the acts of officials of another country for genuinely perceived or actual violations of civil, political and human rights of the latter’s own citizens.”
“It is the Philippine officials who are assailing as meddling the U.S. Senate panel’s action who are the ones interfering in the exercise of American sovereign right,” Lagman added Sunday, September 29.
Panelo, for his part, said: “You know, the usual convenient refuge of political chameleons is that they easily change their beliefs on the basis of a political agenda.”
“Like that congressman [Lagman], he’s a lawyer, he should know. How can there be wrongful imprisonment when there’s preliminary investigation and there’s issuance of a warrant of arrest…” he added.
‘Right to approve or deny entry’ to U.S.
While administration allies assailed the U.S. proposal banning local officials linked to De Lima’s detention as American interference in domestic affairs, Vice President Leni Robredo stressed that the U.S. can choose whom to allow or deny entry into its territory.
“We may not agree, but we cannot deny that it’s their right as a country. That’s why we apply for visa. They have the right to approve or deny our entry to their country,” she said in Filipino during her weekly radio show ‘BISErbisyong LENI.’
According to Robredo, the move only showed how other countries take their fight against rights violations seriously.
“And now America is using this [right] to show other countries that there are values that are important to them and they will use the power of their government to spread this message,” she said.
In response to Panelo’s previous statement saying that the proposal sought to “place pressure” on the country’s “independent institutions thereby effectively interfering with our nation’s sovereignty,” Robredo said: “It is our choice whether we will be pressured or not, right? Whatever effort outsiders do to put pressure on us, it is up to us if we will let ourselves be pressured.”
“For me, even if there are attempts to interfere with us, if we do not want to, we can stop it. The same with our sovereignty. It is up to us if we will allow them or not,” she added.