A US Senate panel has approved an amendment to a bill that would ban any Philippine government official involved in the imprisonment of Philippine Senator Leila de Lima.
The bill amendment was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and will prohibit any Philippine officials involved in the detention of de Lima from entering the US.
US Senator Senators Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy proposed the amendment to the Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill.
Senator Durbin welcomed the committee’s approval by tweeting: “Good to see the Senate Appropriations Committee pass my amendment with @SenatorLeahy (US Senator Patrick Leahy) today to prohibit entry to any Philippine Government Officials involved in the politically motivated imprisonment of Filipina Senator Leila de Lima in 2017. We must #FreeLeilaNow”
In April, Durbin filed a resolution with US Senators Marco Rubio, Edward Markey, Marsha Blackburn, and Chris Coons calling the Philippine government to release de Lima and to dropcharges against news website Rappler and its chief Maria Ressa.
De Lima, a vocal critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, expressed appreciation over the US senators’ effort to examine the situation in the country and condemning the the political persecution she is experiencing under the current administration.
She said: “I express my deepest gratitude to the five honorable members of the US Senate not only for calling out the political persecution I have to endure under the present administration but also the human rights abuses in the country. I am both humbled and thankful for their concerns not just for my plight but for the protection of human rights, democracy, rule of law and political freedom in the Philippines where the culture of fear and impunity reign.”
De Lima was the country’s former secretary of justice before she became a senator. She remains a vocal supporter of human rights causes. She added: “Amid the vilification before the whole world by the most powerful official in the Philippines, I stand here fighting, knowing that there are still many out there who believe in me and my causes.”