US Senator Leahy ‘ignorant’ on de Lima’s detention: Palace

MANILA — Malacañang called US Senator Patrick Leahy “ignorant” for assuming he saw the entire picture surrounding Senator Leila de Lima’s incarceration.

This, after Leahy co-sponsored an amendment to the proposal to bar the entry to the US of any Philippine official involved in de Lima’s imprisonment, which was later approved by a US Senate committee.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, however, slammed Leahy for the amendment which insisted that de Lima was “wrongfully imprisoned”.

Panelo said Leahy does not have “sufficient knowledge” about Philippine laws and has not “personally examined” de Lima’s case since he has not even set foot in the country.

He emphasized that the US Senator does not have “an iota of proof” and was only speaking “not only of blissful ignorance but unscented abuse”.

“Senator Leahy’s statement assumes he has sufficient knowledge of our substantive and procedural laws that constitute our country’s justice system. It further assumes that he personally examined the record folder of the case and after evaluating it concluded that there was an abuse in the judicial process De Lima underwent,” Panelo said in a statement on Sunday.

“Both assumptions do not exist as the good US Senator is ignorant of our procedural rules subjecting a person charged with the commission of a crime. Neither has he set foot in the country for the sole purpose of personally examining the case of De Lima that he may have a reasonable basis to buttress his proposal,” he added.

In speaking of abuse, Panelo said Leahy could have been referring to his own abuse of his freedom of expression by making a “baseless conclusion.”

“He waxes a false and malicious narrative against our government officials with unparalleled arrogance and without a glint of remorse,” Panelo said.

“That such totally baseless conclusion comes from a Senator of the United States of America, a country that prides itself as a bulwark of democracy and observer of due process, is bad enough and a continuing disappointment. If Senator Leahy is a lawyer then that makes it worse and unpardonable,” he added.

What abuse of power?

Panelo explained that there was no abuse of power because de Lima was accorded the constitutional requirement of due process.

“For the enlightenment of Senator Leahy, there would been abuse in the case of Senator De Lima if she was formally charged without the existence of a probable cause and if she was arrested without a warrant of arrest or if a warrant of arrest was issued by a judge without a finding of probable or if during the preliminary investigation she was not afforded the opportunity to submit countervailing evidence in her behalf,” Panelo said.

He dismissed de Lima and her supporters’ cry of political persecution as “the convenient refuge of political chameleons who change their beliefs at will to suit their political agenda.”

While Leahy defended de Lima’s wrongful imprisonment, Panelo rebutted by saying he was defending official actions of the government.

“What I am defending is the independence of the official actions of the institutions of this Republic. What I am defending is the sovereignty of this nation from outside interference,” Panelo said.

“What I am defending is the country’s presidency which commands the occupant to serve and protect the people from the enemies of the state that are bent on destroying the nation and the republic,” he added.

The Palace official also reminded Leahy that the Philippines is an independent country.

“We remind Senator Leahy that the Republic of the Philippines is not a vassal nor a colony of America. It is an independent state that is fiercely protective of its sovereignty and subservient to no other country,” Panelo said.

De Lima, one of the staunchest critics of President Rodrigo Duterte, has been in detention since February 2017 for her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade. However, she has denied these charges. Azer Parrocha / PNA –