by Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News
A Christmas blessing, or so she says, for detained Senator Leila de Lima.
Five days before Christmas, President Donald Trump signed into law the $1.4 trillion spending bill which includes a provision authorizing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ban from entering American territory Philippine government officials, against whom he has credible information to have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment of Senator Leila de Lima.
The provision is in accordance with the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a U.S. law which authorizes the government to sanction those who it sees as human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the U.S.
The U.S. budget amendment was authored by Democrat Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy and classifies unjust or wrongful detention as a form of gross violation of human rights.
The two are among 5 U.S. senators who earlier called on the Duterte administration to release De Lima, a known critic of the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign.
De Lima was arrested in February 2017 initially charged with illegal drug trading, but Philippine prosecutors spent months amending the information to conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading despite De Lima’s objection.
De Lima was arraigned only in August 2018 or 18 months after she was arrested.
But Malacanang was quick to dismiss this development, insisting De Lima’s detention is not wrongful.