Locsin downplays U.S. ban on De Lima accusers

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr downplayed the United States' sanctions that seek to deny entry to officials involved in the detention of Senator Leila de Lima, as he vowed the Philippines would not give up its authority to try the opposition senator in court.

In a series of tweets on Monday, December 23, Locsin downplayed the sanctions, saying the effort by US lawmakers was "of no moment," and that the only way De Lima would be free was after undergoing trial.

"Sovereignty is indivisible. Give up one aspect – like a judicial trial – to please the merely elected abroad at the expense of the highly educated and academically accomplished at home you may as well give up national security to China," Locsin said.

Sovereignty is indivisible. Give up one aspect—like a judicial trial—to please the merely elected abroad at the expense of the highly educated and academically accomplished at home you may as well give up national security to China. What the heck. You can’t be half-screwed. https://t.co/eiBkBmFkAR — Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) December 23, 2019

Like Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, Locsin asserted that De Lima's imprisonment was lawful, with Supreme Court decisions upholding her detention "proof" it had followed Philippine laws. He then used the recent guilty Ampatuan massacre verdict as an example the Philippine justice system worked.

"To its credit, the Republic's highest legal authority ruled them (drug convicts) sufficient prosecution and trial – 2x (twice). The US [amendment] was by senators of varied talents; the SC ruling was by honor graduates. Point PH," Locsin said.

What sanctions? Philippine officials involved in De Lima's detention face the prospect of being denied entry to the US, following President Donald Trump's signing off on the US 2020 budget that includes a provision prohibiting their entry.

The prohibition on entry was part of the general provisions of the 2020 State and foreign operations appropriations bill. It tasks the US Secretary of State to prohibit from entering the US, Philippine officials about whom he has "credible information [to] have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment" of De Lima.

The only way for accused to go free is after trial; if convicted after pardon. Resolutions by legislature/ executive—native or alien—are of no moment. US can refuse visas to anyone it wants for any reason; the PH deported a nun in that way. It is an aspect of sovereignty https://t.co/laEyX9bSX7 — Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) December 23, 2019

The United States has not yet released a list of Philippine officials who may be affected by the sanction but De Lima had earlier identified several officials she believed to be involved in her detention.

This included no less than President Rodrigo Duterte, Panelo, former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, and former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre. Several lawmakers were also named.

The sanction included in the US 2020 budget is one of two sanctions proposed by US senators. The second, which is a US Senate resolution invoking the Global Magnitsky Act, has yet to be adopted by the Senate. (READ: What we know so far: Proposed U.S. sanctions vs PH officials in drug war)

In response to the US government's actions, the Philippine embassy in Washington urged the US to respect Philippine laws and processes as the country does the same with American laws.

"All countries have the sovereign prerogative to allow or ban individuals from entering their borders. We strongly advise the United States to respect our own laws and processes in the same way that we respect theirs," the embassy said in a statement on Tuesday, December 24.

Time of reckoning: In a statement on Tuesday, De Lima disputed lawmakers' attempt to argue her detention was lawful, saying the only thing left to determine was not whether she was persecuted but rather the identities of officials responsible for her imprisonment.

"Malacañang cannot still get over the fact that no one gets away with injustice and violating human rights. No one gets away with impunity and tyranny. Duterte, Panelo, and all of Philippine DDS officialdom should realize by now how their happy days are almost at an end," De Lima said.

The senator warned that with additional Magnitsky sanctions against Philippine officials involved in her case and in extrajudicial killings looming, it would only be a matter of time before other countries with similar measures followed suit to hold human rights violators accountable. (READ: Why the Global Magnitsky Act matters to the Philippines)

Among the countries with laws similar to the US' Global Magnitsky Act are the United Kingdom, Estonia, Canada, Lithuania, and Latvia. Meanwhile, similar legislation is being pursued in Australia, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, and Ukraine, among other countries.

Foreign ministers of the European Union (EU) also agreed on December 9 to draft the region's own version of the Global Magnitsky Act.

"When that time comes, this regime will be properly identified with that part of the world with which it shares values – those ruled by corrupt and repressive one-party governments and those controlled by bureaucracy-embedded criminal organizations," De Lima said.

"If these DDS officials want to be identified with the free world and be treated as its citizens, they cannot act like tyrants and criminals. If they want to be citizens of Rome, they cannot behave like barbarians. It is as simple as that," she added. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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