US Senate told: Don't meddle with Philippine state affairs

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 10 2020 12:40 PM | Updated as of Jan 10 2020 03:11 PM

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MANILA (UPDATE)-- The US Senate resolution calling on President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on Philippine officials supposedly behind the detention of Sen. Leila de Lima is a form of "bullying," Malacañang said Friday as it insisted that the opposition lawmaker was afforded due process.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the resolution can be considered as a "direct and shameless affront" against the Philippines.

"Such actions are brazen and intrusive to the dignity of an independent, democratic and sovereign state such as ours," he said in a statement.

"These latest actions of the US Senate are a form of bullying on the part of a particular institution of a foreign country. We will not be bullied by any foreign country or by its officials, especially by misinformed and gullible politicians who grandstand at our expense," he added.

The US Senate passed on Thursday a resolution that called for De Lima’s immediate release, branding her as a “prisoner of conscience, detained solely on account of her political views and the legitimate exercise of her freedom of expression.”

It also asked Trump to impose Magnitsky sanctions on Philippine government officials behind her arrest and detention.

The Global Magnitsky Act authorizes the US government to sanction those who it sees as human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from the US.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles on Friday added that US lawmakers should not meddle in the Philippines' state affairs since it is a sovereign state.

"We deem it to be pangingialam, parang dinidiktahan tayo kung paano patakbuhin ang justice system natin," Nograles told reporters in Malacañang.

(We deem it to be meddling. It seems like they're telling us how to run our justice system.)

"Independent tayo eh. Sovereign state tayo so don't meddle in our sovereignty," he said.

Panelo also took a swipe at US Senator Richard Durbin, one of the sponsors of the resolution calling for De Lima's release, for his criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Durbin, in a statement, said the US Senate's resolution also condemns the Duterte government's "troubling behavior and democratic backsliding."

"Senator Durbin's demand for the release of Senator Leila de Lima is a brazen interference and an assault to our sovereignty as it interferes with our judicial process," Panelo said.

"In addition, his remarks not only violate the principle of subjudice but it also assails the ongoing proceedings thereby trampling upon the rights of the People of the Philippines," he added.

One of President Duterte's top critics, De Lima was accused of accepting drug money from prisoners when she was justice secretary from 2010 and 2015. 

She has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying what happened to her was "political persecution."