Presidential Spokesperson, Salvador Panelo said he remains unfazed by the possibility that he and other Philippine government officials may be barred from entering the United States.
Panelo said he would not mind being barred from entering the U.S. because he has been there before and that there were many other countries to visit.
“I’ve been there several times over…it’s not the only country that you can go to and enjoy the sites and the sounds,” Panelo said.
Panelo made this comment after U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy filed an amendment in the 2020 State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs) appropriations bill to bar the entry to the U.S. of Philippine government officials involved in the imprisonment of Senator Leila de Lima.
Both senators described de Lima’s case as “wrongful imprisonment”.
The Palace official also said that he would not discourage other government officials from entering the U.S., stressing that the amendment was only a “proposal.”
“That ban is just a proposal in a Senate committee and I think the views of the two senators are in the minority; otherwise, some senators would have supported that. In other words, that ban will be only effective upon the approval of both Houses of Congress of the United States,” Panelo said.
Moreover, he emphasized that the proposed ban is with reference only to government officials who have something to do with de Lima’s imprisonment.
“Unang-una (Firstly), can it be credible when you say that this official has something to do; pangalawa, (secondly) wrongful. Hindi nga (It’s not even a) wrongful imprisonment eh; it’s legal,” he added.
Panelo slammed the amendment anew, describing it as a brazen attempt at “interference” of Philippine sovereign affairs.
He acknowledged that although foreign officials have the right to criticize, they could not make assumptions based on information fed by De Lima, supporters, and other critics of the administration.
“I cannot understand where this Senator Leahy and another one, Senator Durbin, are coming from. The problem with them is that they listen to the critics of the Administration and believe what they hear or what they receive as info hook, line and sinker,” Panelo said.
Panelo said that the Palace would have accepted the two U.S. senators’ criticisms if they were based on official records.
“What is their basis for wrongful imprisonment? Just because Ms. De Lima and her supporters are saying that it is? You know, the usual convenient refuge of political chameleons is that they easily change their beliefs on the basis of a political agenda,” Panelo said.
He also explained that the U.S. government only had the right to bar entry in the U.S. for individuals who have committed transgression on their laws.
“While the U.S. can ban – just like our country can – there must be some basis for that, like if you are declared persona non grata, you have committed any transgression of their laws then you can certainly be banned, Panelo said.
The Palace official also insisted that there was nothing wrongful about de Lima’s imprisonment because she was accorded due process.
“Senator de Lima was given all her rights, due process was strictly observed, she was afforded the right to preliminary investigation, she submitted countervailing evidence, the prosecutor found probable cause that’s why she was formally charged and the Constitution requires the judge before issuing warrant of arrest to personally examine the evidence to determine if there is probable cause to justify the issuance of a warrant of arrest and he did that,” Panelo said. (PNA)