US President Donald Trump on Friday has signed into law the US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill which includes visa ban on Filipino government officials found to be involved in the unjust detention of Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima.
The news was learned by Sen. De Lima’s Office through a communication with the Office of US Sen. Richard Durbin, who, along with Sen. Patrick Leahy, introduced the amendment to the appropriations bill to deny the entry of Philippine government officials involved in the Senators “wrongful imprisonment.”
“The appropriations bill did pass and was signed by the president on Friday,” confirmed the Office of Sen. Durbin.
Days prior, Durbin also announced on Twitter that the amendment he passed with Leahy restricting US visas to De Lima’s persecutors was included in the final US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill.
“Glad to see the amendment I passed with @SenatorLeahy restricting U.S. visas to all those involved in the troubling detention of Filipina Senator Leila de Lima included in the final FY20 appropriations bill. It’s time for her politically motivated imprisonment to come to an end,” Durbin wrote.
Under the amended US Senate bill, the US Secretary of State shall apply the subsection on the prohibition of entry “to foreign government officials about whom the Secretary has credible information have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment” of De Lima, who has been detained on trumped-up drug charges since February 24, 2017.
Aside from De Lima’s case, the US Senate bill also referred to other cases of “wrongful detention” in few other countries and sought the same prohibition on the entry of certain “officials of the governments of Turkey, Egypt or Saudi Arabia, relative to Mustafa Kassem, an American citizen imprisoned by the government of Egypt, and other cases of wrongful detention of a locally employed staff of a U.S. diplomatic mission or a U.S. citizen national.”
Earlier, De Lima said that the idea of a visa ban is not entirely new in the US pursuant to the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) signed into law by U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018.
She explained that the ARIA, which focuses, among others, on issues such as human rights and terrorism, especially in Southeast Asia, “allows for the visa ban and other appropriate sanctions in the United States against foreigners involved in abuses and human rights violations.”
Notably, the US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act complements the recent US Senate Resolution (SR) 142 which calls on the US President to implement the sanctions i.e., entry ban and US asset freeze, provided in the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to government officials responsible for orchestrating De Lima’s arrest and prolonged detention, among others.
Senate Resolution 142, principally authored by Sens. Edward Markey and Marco Rubio, was filed as early as April 4 and unanimously passed by 21 bipartisan committee members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee last Dec. 11. (30)