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Groups welcome proposed U.S. travel ban on officials in De Lima detention

MANILA, Philippines – Groups welcomed the decision of a United States Senate panel to amend a bill that would deny the entry into the US of Filipino government officials involved in the detention of Duterte critic Senator Leila de Lima. 

In separate statements released on Saturday, September 28, Senator Risa Hontiveros, the Liberal Party (LP), and the Free Leila Movement expressed support for the decision. 

Hontiveros called out the Philippine government’s “hypocrisy and selective outrage.” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Friday, September 27, slammed the US  Senate decision, calling it “a brazen attempt to intrude into our country’s domestic legal processes.”

Hontiveros said that the proposed travel ban, pushed by US Senators Richard Durbin (Illinois) and Patrick Leahy (Vermont), proved that “the world is watching [and that] the world will act.” 

Rebutting Panelo, she also said that the move shows no intrusion into Philippine sovereignty.

“They are in fact the consequences of being part of the international community where countries, respective of each other's sovereignty, help one another to uphold the principles of human rights and democracy,” the senator said.  

The LP sang the same tune.

“We respect as much as we laud the move of its Senate committee to prohibit the entry of Philippine government officials involved in the unjust imprisonment of Senator De Lima,” the LP said in a Saturday statement. 

The LP pointed out the president’s “aversion toward the US,” however, and said that the ban would most likely not affect him that much. 

The opposition party instead took a jab at the president’s “underlings,” especially those “who love going on so-called official trips to the US and boxing fans who fill the front row of the sports arenas like it is the session hall.” 

The Free Leila Movement, meanwhile, listed the De Lima's “persecutors for the world to remember.” 

The group listed Duterte, Solicitor General Jose Calida, former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, former House speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, former House majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas, House deputy speaker Fredenil Castro, Senator Richard Gordon, Senator Bato dela Rosa, Senator Bong Go, and Senator Francis Tolentino. 

While the US Senate bill does not name those who will be included in the ban, the section “Prohibition of Entry” said the US Secretary of State "shall apply subsection (c) to foreign government officials about whom the Secretary has credible information have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment of....Senator Leila de Lima who was arrested in the Philippines in 2017."

“The names could go on as the Duterte administration seemed to have mobilized the whole machinery of the state to come after one person who questioned his anti-people policies. It is clear that Duterte’s justice system works only to protect its allies who are few and powerful,” the group said. 

De Lima, a fierce critic of the Duterte administration, has been imprisoned for over two years now over drug charges, which she asserts were fabricated by the government. She is not entitled to bail. If found guilty she faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.  (READ: De Lima in jail: 'I never imagined Duterte would be this vindictive') – Rappler.com