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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

US Senate puts its foot down on De Lima jailers

The United States’ Senate has passed a measure seeking sanctions for Philippine officials involved in alleged extrajudicial killings and the detention of opposition Senator Leila de Lima.

Senate Resolution No. 142 was “passed/agreed to in Senate” on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), according to the website of the upper chamber.

It calls on President Donald Trump to deny US entry to and block all US-based transactions in property and interests of “members of the security forces and officials of the Government of the Philippines responsible for extrajudicial killings… and responsible for orchestrating the arrest and prolonged detention of Senator De Lima.”

READ: US bans PH execs, Palace unfazed

At the same time, in a speech on the US Senate floor, Illinois Democratic Senator Richard Durbin said De Lima’s fearlessness to speak out against President Duterte’s alleged extrajudicial killings had cost her freedom.

“Sen. De Lima is a former head of the National Human Rights Commission of the Philippines, and internationally-recognized human rights champion critical of President Duterte’s extrajudicial killings. What did that lead to? Her arrest and her being sentenced and imprisoned for three years in jail for speaking out against the current President of the Philippines,” he said.

Durbin also read an excerpt of a letter that De Lima sent to him, which gave details about the current human rights situation in the Philippines.

“As you can imagine, I may be the one currently in detention but I’m not the only victim suffering in the situation,” he quoted the purported letter as saying.

“So are the victims of extrajudicial killings and their families. So are all defenders of human rights and ultimately, so are all of us all over the world who defend democracy and the rule of law.”

In the Senate, Senator Vicente Sotto III strongly reacted to the entry ban imposed by the US government on Philippine government officials involved in the extrajudicial killings and de Lima’s detention.

Sotto said he would like to think they (US officials) were misinformed because it’s an affront to the Philippine Justice System.  

“It appears to be a violation of their Constitution re the Bill of Attainder,” he added. 

On the other hand, he said it proved the so-called inclusion in the US 2020 budget was really fake news.

The Senate leader earlier said the prohibition only showed the US government “meddle with other country’s justice system without even investigating.”

READ: US senator talks trash—Palace

The Senate move is seen as in line with the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, an American law which allows Washington to punish foreign officials implicated in “significant corruption or gross violations of human rights” in any part of the world. Under the law, the US President shall decide on requests to impose sanctions on human rights violators and corrupt foreigners within 120 days.

The US Senate’s new resolution also called on the Philippine government to immediately release De Lima and allow her to fulfill her duties as a lawmaker. 

The American senators agreed that De Lima was a “prisoner of conscience, detained solely on account of her political views and the legitimate exercise of her freedom of expression.”

De Lima has been detained since 2017 on drug charges, which she and human rights groups believe are fabricated cases meant to silence her for being a staunch critic of Duterte and his bloody war on drugs.

READ: De Lima deserves to be jailed—Duterte

More or less 6,000 people have been killed in the anti-drug campaign, government data show. Local and international advocacy groups say there are thousands more of extrajudicial killings, as a result of

Duterte’s public pronouncements to finish all drug addicts.

The US Senate condemns “the Government of the Philippines for its role in state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings by police and other armed individuals as part of the ‘War on Drugs,’” the resolution read. 

READ: PH bars entry of 2 US solons

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