US Senator who said De Lima was wrongfully imprisoned is 'ignorant': Panelo

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 29 2019 08:54 PM

MANILA - Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo on Sunday said a US Senator was "ignorant" for calling the incarceration of Sen. Leila De Lima as "wrongful imprisonment." 

Last week, US Senator Patrick Leahy asked the US Senate to deny entry of any Philippine government officials involved in De Lima's imprisonment.

A US Senate panel has since approved an amendment in the 2020 State and Foreign Operations appropriations barring the entry to the US of any Philippine official involved in De Lima's imprisonment. 

In April this year, Leahy co-sponsored a resolution condemning De Lima's detention and calling for her immediate release. 

In a statement, Panelo said Leahy was "ignorant of our procedural rules subjecting a person charged with the commission of a crime."

Panelo said Leahy has not visited the country to examine the case of De Lima and thus has no "reasonable basis to buttress his proposal." 

"Hence in citing abuse of Philippine officials without an iota of proof he was speaking not only of blissful ignorance but unscented abuse," the Palace Spokesman said. 

Leahy had earlier blasted Panelo for calling the US Senate's move as interference in Philippine affairs.

"Every year, the United States provides large amounts of aid to the Philippines, and I have supported that aid. I assume President [Rodrigo] Duterte's spokesman who defended the wrongful imprisonment of Senator De Lima does not consider our aid to be 'interfering' in their sovereignty," Leahy had said in a statement to ABS-CBN News.

Panelo meanwhile insisted that he was defending the "independence of the official actions of the institutions of this Republic."

He also scored the US lawmaker's comments about US aid to the Philippines. 

"Giving aids [sic] or grants is not a form of sovereign interference. They are given by a state to another by reason of comity and friendship. The Philippines welcomes them. Grants or aids [sic] with attached conditions are anathema to the very purpose of such generosity and we reject them, for they cloth the donor the authority as well as the gumption to meddle into our internal affairs thereby trampling our sovereign rights," Panelo said. 

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

The Justice Department used the testimonies of convicted drug traffickers, kidnappers and murderers against De Lima.

If found guilty, De Lima faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.