MANILA - And the word war continues.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Thursday issued fresh comments on US Senator Patrick Leahy's recent remarks, saying the American lawmaker was only "showing more ignorance" when he called for a fair trial for detained opposition Sen. Leila de Lima.
"US Senator Patrick Leahy simply does not get it," Panelo said.
"Mr. Leahy cannot be more popish than the Pope. It may be best for him to address the issues his country is facing rather than looking for other concerns which belong to a separate and independent state," he said.
The dispute between Panelo and Leahy started after the latter proposed a travel ban against Philippine officials behind the imprisonment of De Lima.
De Lima, a staunch administration critic, has been held on non-bailable drug charges since February 2017. She has denied the allegations, calling them political persecution.
Panelo criticized the proposal as an attempt to interfere with Manila's domestic affairs, while Leahy questioned the human rights situation in the Philippines.
Leahy, through his spokesperson David Carle, recently said that: "If the evidence is as strong as Mr. Panelo claims, then the government should promptly produce it in a fair, public trial, as due process requires, so Senator De Lima can defend herself."
Panelo then explained that letting the judiciary decide on De Lima's case means she is already getting a fair and public trial.
"For the sound legal education of Senator Leahy, this representation did not say that the government, or the Administration for that matter, has strong evidence. That is for the court to decide," said Panelo, also the President's chief legal counsel.
The Duterte spokesman fired back at Leahy, accusing the US lawmaker of attempting to take De Lima's case "outside our legal process and place it in a hostile environment stacked against the Philippine officials."
"His actions smack of interference with due process, particularly that of the People of the Philippines, he claims to promote," Panelo said.