Banned U.S. senator: De Lima case a test of PH’s ‘cherished democratic norms’
MANILA, Philippines — A U.S. senator, who has been banned from entering the Philippines, urged anew the Duterte administration to release Senator Leila de Lima, adding that it will be an “important test” to the Philippines’ “cherished democratic norms.”
In delivering his speech on the U.S. Senate floor on Thursday (Manila time), U.S. Senator Richard Durbin called on President Rodrigo Duterte to free De Lima or at least give her a quick and credible trial instead of imposing visa restrictions on Americans.
“There is an easy and honorable way forward. The Duterte regime should stop threatening the travel of Americans and so many others who travel between our nations and instead ensure a quick and credible trial for Senator de Lima or simply do the right thing and release her,” Durbin said.
“In the end, these will be important tests of whether cherished democratic norms we share with our long-standing Filipino allies will be respected by President (Rodrigo) Duterte,” he added.
Durbin, along with U.S. senators Patrick Leahy and Edward Markey, were ordered banned from traveling to the Philippines following their appeals for the immediate release of De Lima, one of Duterte’s staunchest critic.
The U.S. lawmakers also sought to deny U.S entry to Philippine officials proven responsible for her arrest and detention.
Durbin and Leahy introduced an amendment to the 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill which sought to ban US entry to Philippine officials proven to be behind De Lima’s “wrongful imprisonment.”
Last December 20, U.S. President Donald Trump signed the 2020 national budget, which included that provision.
“It was our little measure in that appropriation bill that led President Duterte to ban us from ever traveling to the Philippines,” Durbin went on.
The Democrat senator from Illinois also read an excerpt from a letter De Lima had sent to him where she had pointed out that she is not the “only victim suffering in this situation.”
“As you can imagine, I may be the one currently in detention, but I’m not the only victim suffering in this situation. So are the victims of extrajudicial killings and their families, so are all defenders of human rights and, ultimately, so are all of us all over the world who defend democracy and the rule of law,” De Lima’s letter read.
Durbin noted that it was his staff who urged him to take action on behalf of political prisoners around the world.
“Over the years, my staff came to me and talked to me about political prisoners in far-flung nations around the world, men and women, literally in jail, because they are exercising their right to speak, to be journalists, to assemble, to run for political office. My staff said they’re forgotten,” he said.
“Nobody knows they’re there. They languish in prisons for months and years and sometimes die there and nobody even mentions their name,” he added.
He said his staff suggested that he speak about their situation before the U.S. Senate or write a letter “to the embassy of the country where they’re being held prisoner.”
“I was skeptical as to whether or not that would even be worth the effort but I’ve learned over the years, it is,” Durbin said.
Durbin’s remarks are the latest from the U.S. senators who have been banned from entering the country.
Leahy was the first to slam as “irrational” the administration’s threat of imposing visa restrictions on Americans while Markey said he will not be silenced by the Duterte administration’s “strongman tactics.”
Edited by MUF
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.