US President Donald Trump has signed into law the nation’s 2020 budget, which includes a clause allowing the US secretary of state to ban the entry of Philippine officials behind the detention of one of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s staunchest critics.
The $14-trillion budget law allows US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ban Philippine officials involved in the “wrongful imprisonment” of Senator Leila M. De Lima, according to a copy of the law signed last week.
Ms. de Lima, a staunch critic of Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, has been detained since February 2017 for drug trafficking.
The lawmaker was indicted for allegedly conspiring to commit illegal drug trading inside the national penitentiary when she was still the justice secretary.
The Philippine government is unfazed. While the Philippines cannot interfere with the US legislation, the US secretary of state would be wise enough not to enforce a ban presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo told reporters on Monday.
“The secretary of state, unlike the two senators who introduced that amendment, is better informed and educated about the internal judiciary processes of this country and will necessarily follow his informed judgment,” he said.
Ms. de Lima went through administrative and judicial processes before her indictment and detention, Mr. Panelo said. “How can that be a wrongful detention?”
The US budget clause was a change introduced by Senator Richard Joseph Durbin, who was also among those who sponsored a US resolution urging the Philippine government to release Ms. de Lima and drop the charges.
Last week, the senator named Mr. Duterte as the top person responsible for her arrest, along with Mr. Panelo. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Gillian M. Cortez