US senator slams Panelo: We respond against Philippine officials who abuse justice system

US senator slams Panelo: We respond against Philippine officials who abuse justice system

Presidential spokesperson and concurrent Presidential Legal Counsel Atty. Salvador Panelo got a mouthful from a US senator for his comment saying that Washington is interfering with Philippines’ internal affairs over the proposed move to ban government official that has something to do with the imprisonment of Senator Leila De Lima.
"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," Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont said in a statement to ABS-CBN News.

"Our aid is not a blank check, and when Philippine officials abuse the justice system for the purpose of political retribution, we have a responsibility to respond."
 Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont slams Presidential Spokesperson Atty. Salvador Panelo
(photo credit to ABS-CBN News)
It was Leahy together with Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois,that initiated the  amendment in the 2020 State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs) appropriations bill to deny entry of any Philippine government officials involved in Leila De Lima's imprisonment.
The Presidential spokesperson made a statement that US Senate's move is 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," he 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 added.
Panelo says that the opposition senator 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," Panelo 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.

Political persecution

Since February 2017 up until now, De Lima is detained in Camp Crame in Quezon city on charges of  allegedly pocketing drug payoffs from convicted crime lords when she was still justice secretary
De Lima is not entitled to bail and if found guilty faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

De Lima from her detention cell, thanks the US senators and other defenders of justice and democracy "for reminding us that the world is still watching.”
"The proposal of US Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy to impose a visa ban against abusive Philippine government officials is a clear message that impunity, while remaining unchecked in our country, may find an end in the 'home of the brave and the land of the free,'" she said. 

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Report from ABS-CBN News

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