US Senate panel approves ban of PH officials who jailed De Lima

Arianne Merez and Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 27 2019 02:00 PM | Updated as of Sep 27 2019 04:04 PM

Palace: A brazen attempt to intrude into PH affairs

MANILA - (UPDATE) A US Senate panel has approved an amendment to deny entry to any Philippine official involved in the 2-year detention of Sen. Leila de Lima, a US senator said Friday. 

US Sen. Dick Durbin on Twitter lauded the Senate Appropriations Committee for passing the amendment he filed with US Sen. Patrick Leahy in connection with what he dubbed as the "politically motivated" detention of De Lima. 

Durbin was among 5 US senators who earlier called on the Duterte administration to release De Lima, a fierce critic of President Duterte's anti-narcotics drive. 

Malacañang, meanwhile, blasted the move as a "brazen" attempt to intrude into the Philippines' internal affairs, saying it treats Manila as an "inferior state."

"It seeks to place pressure upon our independent institutions thereby effectively interfering with our nation’s sovereignty," Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

"It is an outright disrespect to our people's clamor for law and order. It treats our country as an inferior state unqualified to run its own affairs," he said.

Despite calling the US senators' move as "insulting," Panelo said the Philippines will not perform any "repulsive action" for the reversal of the amendment.

"We shall respect their democratic processes, be these in the form of a congressional measure or an immigration policy. We shall leave it to the international community to ascertain which nation values the rule of law in accordance with the principle of state sovereignty," he said.

Panelo also reiterated that De Lima is not a "prisoner of conscience," arguing that her case underwent proper proceedings.

"She is being afforded all her rights to due process and has in fact availed of available legal remedies under our procedural rules," he said.

"We continue to mind our own business, as each nation has enough problems that its government should focus on. We hope that the Senate panel of the United States of America shares the same policy," he said.

De Lima has been detained since February 2017 for allegedly pocketing drug payoffs from convicted crime lords when she was still justice secretary — an allegation she dubbed as "political persecution. 

De Lima, 60, is not entitled to bail and if found guilty, faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.