Press Release
October 13, 2019

De Lima to Bersamin: US lawmakers stand for truth, human rights

Senator Leila M. de Lima has belied Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin's claim that the US proposed "entry ban" on Filipino officials behind her unjust detention was merely a public relations stunt that amounted to an act of interference.

De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the present administration, maintained that the US Senator Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy are only fighting for truth and speaking up against the gross injustice done to her by the vindictive Duterte regime.

"The Hon. Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin regards the US Senators' move to ban my oppressors as a 'PR tour de force'. No, Sir. It's nothing like that. It's about standing up, in concrete terms, for human rights and accountability. It's a matter of truth and justice," she said in her Dispatch from Crame No. 621.

"These principles, which are revered in democratic societies like the U.S., are being discarded like garbage by the increasingly authoritarian Duterte regime," added the lady Senator from Bicol.

Last Sept. 27, the US Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill to deny the entry of any Philippine government officials involved in De Lima's "wrongful imprisonment."

The Durbin-Leahy amendment has enraged Mr. Duterte's allies, including Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo who deplored it as a "brazen" intrusion on the country's internal affairs.

Bersamin, who was appointed by Mr. Duterte as the SC Chief Justice last year and is retiring from the judiciary this coming Oct. 18, for his part, called the Durbin and Leahy amendment as a "PR tour de force" and an act of "interference."

He further claimed that US lawmakers should not interfere with other countries like the Philippines, especially in the function and workings of the court.

De Lima, a former justice secretary, said she found it "unfortunate" that Bersamin chose to downplay as a mere PR feat the clear-cut significance of the US Senators' action.

"I hope that our functionaries, especially those whose very mandate is to dispense justice in this country and those who directly deal with the diplomatic community, are sensitive and clear-minded enough to appreciate the dimensions and underlying sentiments behind the concerted efforts abroad to stand by me and my causes," she said.

"Perhaps, a self-reflection on the part of the institutions with varying roles in facilitating Duterte's vendetta against me, is called for," she added.

The lady Senator from Bicol has since maintained that it is the prerogative of the US to impose an "entry ban" on Filipino officials involved in human rights violations and abuses, citing the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) and the Magnitsky Act.

De Lima said the ARIA allows for the visa ban and other appropriate sanctions in the United States against foreigners involved in human rights violations while the Magnitsky Act authorized the US Government to sanction human rights offenders by banning entry into the US and freezing the assets of those involved in such violations.

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