De Lima submits names of 'persecutors' to US for entry ban

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 25 2020 10:40 AM

Detained Senator Leila de Lima waves to her supporters as she arrives at the Quezon City RTC on Thursday, August 2, 2018, to attend a hearing on her disobedience to summons case filed by Representative Reynaldo Umali. ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA – Detained Sen. Leila de Lima has submitted the list of her “persecutors” to the United States State Department for inclusion in the US entry ban under the Magnitsky Act.

“Yes, I have submitted (the names) but I cannot share in deference to the US State Department,” she said in a statement in response to a query from ABS-CBN News.

She said she coursed her submission through the US Embassy in Manila around the second week of January this year.

The US Congress, through the US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill which US President Donald Trump signed into law in December last year, tasked the US State Department to apply the law banning human rights violators from entering American soil to De Lima’s case.
 
The law included, by reference, a provision in the US Senate appropriations committee report classifying “unjust or wrongful detention” as part of “gross violation of human rights,” making it a ground for applying the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a US law which authorizes the US government to sanction those who it sees as human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the US.

The sanctions extend to their immediate family members.

De Lima said she justified why she included every single name in her list although she clarified her list is only recommendatory.

The provision in the Senate committee report on De Lima allows US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to gather “credible information” about foreign government officials who may “have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment of…Senator Leila de Lima who was arrested in the Philippines in 2017.”

“With or without my list, they are mandated to come up with a list,” De Lima said.


AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENT REACHES OUT

De Lima also disclosed the Australian Parliament has reached out to her about the Magnitsky Act.

De Lima’s chief of staff, lawyer Fhillip Sawali, said members of the Australian Parliament who intend to introduce an Australian version of the Magnitsky Act sought the senator’s views on the measure, from the perspective of a victim and global justice champion.

Canada, United Kingdom, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia already have their own version of the Magnitsky Act while others pushing for their own legislation include Ukraine and the European Union.


THREE YEARS IN DETENTION

The detained senator, who spent her third anniversary in detention on Sunday, insisted on her innocence and maintained that her “illegal arrest and unjust detention” was an act of vengeance on the part of President Rodrigo Duterte.

A staunch critic of the President’s war on drugs, De Lima’s clash with Duterte started years back when as head of the Commission on Human Rights, she investigated then-Mayor Duterte’s alleged involvement in the Davao Death Squad.

“Let me say it again: I am innocent of the trumped-up drug charges against me. I may not be a perfect person, but I have never betrayed my duty as a public servant,” she said in a statement read by her brother Vicente de Lima II at a forum in Manila on Friday.

“And if anyone would take a serious look at the details of my cases, including the ludicrous perjured testimonies of the so-called witnesses against me – they will see that I am merely a victim of political persecution,” she added.

De Lima is facing 3 conspiracy to commit drug trading charges before the Muntinlupa regional trial court due to her alleged involvement in the drug trade at the national penitentiary at the New Bilibid Prison.

But she has consistently questioned the Justice Department’s use of convicts as witnesses against her. She claimed they are under “intense pressure” and were granted “concessions” for testifying against her.

She cited instances when witnesses who admitted during congressional hearings to being involved in drug trading supposedly in conspiracy with her have now denied involvement during the trial.

“I do think they were promised immunity. The DOJ doesn’t want to admit it. They already implicated themselves [during the congressional hearings]. Why would they deny that in court?,” she asked.

“Because they are not state witnesses. The DOJ would be violating the law if they were admitted as state witnesses. Ordinary witnesses can’t implicate themselves. Otherwise, they’ll be charged,” she explained.

Republic Act No. 6981 or the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act which requires that before a witness can be admitted as a state witness, he/she must not have been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.

Based on cases decided by the Supreme Court, moral turpitude refers to “an act of baseness, vileness or depravity” that “gravely violates moral sentiment or accepted moral standards of the community…”

The witnesses against the senator that the prosecutors named were convicted of crimes ranging from murder and kidnapping to robbery and illegal drug trading.

De Lima also said 3 years into her trial, the prosecution has yet to present the report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council which would supposedly show she received money from the illegal drug trade. The prosecution also opposed her move to subpoena the bank accounts involved.

Former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Chief (now Baguio City Mayor) Benjamin Magalong earlier testified that the CIDG had no information that De Lima was involved in the drug trade. 

De Lima claimed some of the witnesses apologized to her at some point during the trial.

Six judges have so far withdrawn from her cases or opted for early retirement.


SUPPORT

Ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has expressed support for the detained senator, calling the testimonies against her “completely fabricated.”

“The circumstances behind those testimonies are well known, as the President has publicly announced his plan to write “finish” to her political influence. Unknown to the President, his plan would backfire, as her voice now reaches a larger and more global audience – speaking for all prisoners of conscience whose only “fault” is to take to task those who deny people their basic right to life and humanity,” she said in a statement Monday.

“Seven judges later (six having either withdrawn or retired), the injustice inflicted on her by the very system meant to render justice has been witnessed globally. This is one lesson that young people all over the world will never forget. We thank her for bringing honor to Filipino heroism once again,” she said.