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Entry ban on De Lima's persecutors included in US 2020 budget signed by Trump

US President Donald Trump has signed the United States 2020 federal budget which includes a provision banning the entry of Philippine government officials involved in the detention of Senator Leila de Lima.

The provision in the US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill was introduced by US Democratic Senators Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy last September 27 and adopted at the committee level.

It stated that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shall apply subsection (prohibition on 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.”

De Lima earlier cited the initial list of personalities whom she recalled have contributed in her illegal arrest and unjust detention including 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 Attorneys Office chief Persida Acosta, Sandra Cam, Dante Jimenez, Representatives Rey Umali and Rudy Fariñas.

The provision also included a ban on Egypt government officials involved in the imprisonment of  Mustafa Kassem, a sickly American citizen.

The provision further states Pompeo shall apply such subsection to officials of the governments of Turkey, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia who have been involved in the wrongful detention of locally employed staff of a US diplomatic mission or a US citizen or national.

De Lima’s media officer Ferdie Maglalang said it was the office of US Senator Durbin who informed them about the inclusion of the provision in the US 2020 Budget Act.

“The appropriations bill did pass and was signed by the president on Friday,” communication from the Office of Sen. Durbin stated.

Before the signing, Durbin also announced on Twitter that the amendment he passed with Leahy restricting US visas to De Lima’s persecutors was included in the final US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill.

“Glad to see the amendment I passed with @SenatorLeahy restricting U.S. visas to all those involved in the troubling detention of Filipina Senator Leila de Lima included in the final FY20 appropriations bill. It’s time for her politically motivated imprisonment to come to an end,” Durbin said.



Palace, De Lima reactions

In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Panelo said the Palace remains unfazed by the enactment of the bill.

“We are not bothered by it,”Panelo said at a news conference Monday.

He maintained that De lima is not wrongfully detained. “How can that be a wrongful detention?” Panelo said. “If that is trumped up charge, then the prosecutor could have seen it as well as the judicial officer who issued the warrant.”

For her part, De Lima thanked the US Congress for the development.

“My gratitude to the US Congress is overwhelming...This latest development signals the fact that impunity cannot last and that one way or another, justice will catch up with those who choose to do injustice to others,” De Lima said in a statement.

She said this also signifies a solid recognition by the US government that she is a clear victim of political persecution.

Visa ban

De Lima earlier said the idea of a visa ban is not entirely new in the US pursuant to the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) signed into law by US President Donald Trump in 2018.

She said the ARIA, which focuses, among others, on issues such as human rights and terrorism, especially in Southeast Asia, “allows for the visa ban and other appropriate sanctions in the United States against foreigners involved in abuses and  human rights violations.”

De Lima added the US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act complements the recent US Senate Resolution (SR) 142 which calls on US President Trump to implement the sanctions i.e., entry ban and US asset freeze, provided in the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to government officials responsible for orchestrating De Lima's arrest and prolonged detention, among others.

Senate Resolution 142, principally authored by US Senators Edward Markey and Marco Rubio, was filed as early as April 4 and unanimously passed by 21 bipartisan committee members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee last December 11. —KG/RSJ, GMA News