A provision in an American law prohibiting the US entry of Philippine officials involved in Senator Leila de Lima's detention involves issues of "sovereignty and non-interference among co-equal nations," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday.
US President Donald Trump has signed the US 2020 federal budget which contains a subsection banning the entry of foreign government officials who were allegedly involved in De Lima's "wrongful imprisonment."
Sought for a statement, Guevarra said he was "shockingly disappointed" by the development, noting that the issue "is much bigger than the prosecution of Senator De Lima on drug charges under Philippine laws."
He said he was "shocked that a foreign government can unduly influence or interfere with another country's legal and judicial processes by threats of visa cancellations and asset confiscation."
"I thought the US wants everyone to observe due process?" he said in a message to reporters.
Prosecutors under the Department of Justice are seeking De Lima's conviction of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading in connection with her alleged involvement in the New Bilibid Prison drug trade.
The opposition senator has repeatedly denied the charges. She has been detained for more than two years.
Guevarra is not on the initial list of personalities whom De Lima identified as having contributed to her arrest in 2017.
These individuals include President Rodrigo Duterte, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, former Presidential Communications Operations Office official Mocha Uson, Sass Rogando Sasot, and RJ Nieto, former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, former Justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, Solicitor General Jose Calida, Public Attorney's Office chief Persida Acosta, Sandra Cam, Dante Jimenez, Representatives Rey Umali and Rudy Fariñas.
"As for me, I don’t give a damn s_ _ _ if i’m included in the US list. I’m not the one who has to answer to my conscience," Guevarra said, qualifying it as a "personal sentiment" in the event he is included in the ban.
De Lima said the entry ban shows that the US government recognizes that she is a victim of political persecution. She is a vocal critic of the Duterte administration's deadly anti-illegal drug campaign, which has drawn criticism from international groups. — RSJ, GMA News