President Rodrigo R. Duterte dismissed as “unripe” a proposal of two US senators to bar Philippine government officials involved in the imprisonment of Senator Leila de Lima from entering the United States.
“I have the best adjective for that pero (but) at this time, I will just… Hilaw pa ‘yan eh. (It’s still unripe). When it becomes ripe, then I will say my piece,” Duterte said in a press conference at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) before his departure to Russia on Tuesday night.
Earlier, US Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy filed an amendment to the 2020 State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs) appropriations bill to include a ban on the entry to the US of Philippine government officials involved in de Lima’s imprisonment.
Duterte said he did not consider the two US senators’ proposed amendment as interference and refused to comment further, pointing out that they were only “voices of members of a committee” and not an act of state.
“I do not deal individually with the congressman or senators there. Hindi pa hinog ‘yan (That’s not ripe yet). It is not an act of state. It does not carry the mandate of the entire Senate. So if there is one or two or three who says that these things exist in the Philippines, let them,” Duterte said.
Duterte, however, said that should the Senate adopt the proposal of the two senators, he would speak to either the US State Department or US President Donald Trump.
“I cannot help them in their ignorance. So if they decide to report it out of the committee to the plenary for adoption and it becomes — it is now ripe, it becomes a matter now between two states, then that is the time maybe the State Department or Trump and I will have to talk. And I will talk,” Duterte said.
Meanwhile, Duterte said he saw no need for the Philippine government to conduct a probe into the two US senators’ proposed ban or ban US government officials from the Philippines as well.
“Those are proposals and proposals are what they are — simply proposals,” Duterte said.
“We will waste our time. Why would I waste my time investigating two (US senators)— ?” he added.
Earlier, 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.
However, unlike Duterte, Panelo considered the US senators’ proposed amendment as a brazen attempt at “interference” oo Philippine sovereign affairs.
Panelo insisted that there was nothing wrongful about de Lima’s imprisonment because she was accorded due process.
Although foreign officials have the right to criticize, Panelo said they could not make assumptions based on information fed by de Lima, supporters, and other critics of the administration.
Panelo further said the US government only had the right to bar entry in the US of individuals who have committed transgression of their laws.
De Lima, one of Duterte’s staunchest critics, has been in detention since February 2017 for her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade. However, she denied these charges. (PNA)