The US Congress is "weaponizing human rights" when it included a provision in their 2020 national budget banning the entry of Philippine officials involved in the detention of Senator Leila De Lima, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said on Monday.
At a press conference in Taguig City, Cayetano said that such a provision in the US federal budget for 2020 was not "well thought-of," considering that US lawmakers may have only based their decision from media reports in the Philippines.
"This is the best example of weaponizing human rights. Walang problema na ipaglaban natin ang human rights kasi yan talaga ay para sa ating lahat," Cayetano said.
"But look at the implication of that law. Kapag sumunod ang officials natin at pinakawalan, bibigyan tayo ng visa, babagsak naman ang judicial system natin," he added.
"There are judicial remedies. Pero kung ang gagamitin mo ay yung US visa, this is weaponizing," Cayetano said.
The subject provision in the US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill was introduced by US Senators Richard Durbin and Democrat Patrick Leahy on September 27 and adopted at the committee level.
It provides that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shall apply the prohibition of entry to foreign government officials about whom he has credible information have been involved in the "wrongful imprisonment" of De Lima who was arrested in the Philippines in 2017.
Cayetano said the US lawmakers seemed to have already made their judgment on the De Lima case.
"Kapag diretsuhan ka nang nakikialam, meaning may judgment na sila na unlawful at illegal ang pagkakulong kay Senator De Lima. But no less than our Supreme Court said that tama at dapat ituloy ang hearing," Cayetano said.
"Pinangungunahan ba ng US Congress ang ating judicial system? Kasi kung ganun, akala ko ba sabi nila gusto nila ng human rights, at akala ko ba gusto nila democratic rights? Kapag na-abolish ang Supreme Court natin, we will have a dictatorship," he added.
Cayetano urged members of the US Congress to come to the Philippines and see for themselves whether there is an existing dictatorship in the country and democracy is no more.
"Let me use this opportunity to invite US Congress men and women and US senators to visit the Philippines, talk to the media and ask you saan ang problema sa press freedom, saan very free ang press, to go around including Mindanao to see whether or not may dictatorship or kung ang tao ngayon ang nasusunod sa Pilipinas," he said.
"We hope that you'll come over to the Philippines, you will observe by yourselves, not only through news reports what is really happening in the country and you'll probably see, I would dare say that our democracy is a little bit more vibrant than American democracy at this point in time," Cayetano said. —NB, GMA News