By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said the United States’ new law banning Filipino officials from entering their country if proven they had something to do with the detention of Senator Leila de Lima was “true” after pro-Duterte blogger RJ Nieto said it was not.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador made the statement after Nieto, also known as blogger Thinking Pinoy, said in his column in the Manila Bulletin that news about the said provision was “as fake as fake news gets” as the prohibition entry was “nowhere to be found” in the final version of the bill signed by US President Donald Trump.
In a radio interview Sunday, Panelo said Filipino Ambassador to US Babes Romualdez informed him that the travel ban was real.
“I was talking to Ambassador Babes Romualdez sinasabi niyang chineck daw nila yung batas, meron nga raw. Totoo yung ban (He said they checked the law and the provision exists. The ban is real),” he said.
However, Panelo said it did not matter whether the news about the travel ban against Filipino officials was true or not.
“Totoo man o hindi (True or not), it doesn’t matter to us. What’s important is if they ban any government official, then we will require yung kukunin ng visa and yung pag-ban ng dalawang senador (require their citizens to secure visas before entering the Philippines and the two senators will be banned from entering the country),” he said.
The Palace official added that the provision and the Philippines’ response to it would unlikely have a negative effect on the relations between the two countries.
“Wala namang epekto ‘yan, eh. Basta ang ayaw lang namin yung pinapakialaman yung proseso natin (It won’t have any effect on our relationship. What we don’t want is for anybody to be interfering in our processes),” Panelo said.
President Trump signed the US 2020 Budget Law which contained the provision allowing the US Secretary of State to deny any Filipino official entry to their territory if the State Secretary had credible information that the official played a role in the detention of Senator Leila de Lima.
In response to the provision, President Duterte ordered for the Philippines to require Americans to secure a visa first before they could enter the country should the United States ban any Filipino official from entering their territory by reason de Lima’s imprisonment.
The President likewise ordered the Bureau of Immigration to deny US Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy, the American legislators who introduced the said provision in the US 2020 Budget, entry to the Philippines.
Nieto, one of the people cited by De Lima as responsible for her detention, however, said the authority given to the US Secretary of State to stop the entry of those behind the lady senator’s detention was fake news
According to De Lima, Nieto may have read the final bill but not the omnibus bill which contained the provision. An omnibus bill combines smaller bills of appropriations into one single bill that could be approved by each house.
De Lima was arrested in February 2017 for her involvement in the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison. She was arraigned in August 2018.