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US Senate body wants de Lima critics barred

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Leila M. De Lima
PHILSTAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

A SENATE committee in the United States has endorsed a bill barring Philippine officials involved in the “politically motivated imprisonment” of Senator Leila M. De Lima, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s war on drugs.

US Senator Dick Durbin tweeted on Friday that the Senate appropriations committee had approved the measure. “We must free Leila now,” he said.

“The palace considers such undertaking as a brazen attempt to intrude into our country’s domestic legal processes given that the subject cases against the detained senator are presently being heard by our local courts,” presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement.

Ms. de Lima has been detained since February 2017 after she was indicted for allowing the illegal drug trade inside the national jail in Muntinlupa City while serving as Justice secretary.

Mr. Duterte’s political opponents have accused him of attempting to quash dissent after Ms. de Lima’s arrest in 2017. The senator has been criticizing the president’s drug crackdowns since he was a local mayor.

Mr. Panelo said the bill seeks to pressure the country’s independent institutions, “effectively interfering with our nation’s sovereignty.”




Mr. Panelo said the measure is an insult to the competence of Philippine authorities and makes it appear that the US Senate panel “has the monopoly of what is right and just.”

“It is an outright disrespect to our people’s clamor for law and order,” the spokesman said “It treats our country as an inferior state unqualified to run its own affairs.” — Arjay L. Balinbin

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