CJ breaks silence on US senators’ ban call vs de Lima jailers

Retiring Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin on Monday finally broke his silence on two United States senators’ call to bar the entry on American soil of any Philippine official who had a hand in Sen. Leila de Lima’s “politically motivated” imprisonment.

Interviewed over CNN Philippines’ The Source, Bersamin described the American legislators’ initiative as “act of interference.”

“That’s obviously a PR tour de force. If they do implement that to ban officials whom they believe are responsible for the continuing incarceration of Senator De Lima it’s their privilege and I think nothing we can do about that, but the nature of that kind of action is interference,” Bersamin said.

De Lima is facing charges of conspiracy to commit illegal drugs trade at Branches 205, 206 and 256 of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.

Around 40 prosecution witnesses have testified against her, including former Bureau of Corrections officer in charge Rafael Ragos and Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who used to head the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police.

A former chair of Commission on Human Rights who had been critical of the President Duterte’s brutal antidrug campaign, De Lima maintained that the drug charges against her were all fabrications and politically motivated.

Currently, de Lima is detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame on charges linking her to illegal drugs during her stint as then justice secretary

The US Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to a bill seeking to deny entry to Filipino behind de Lima’s detention.

Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy initiated the amendment. The amendment formed part of an appropriations bill on state and foreign operations, which will be tackled further by the entire US Senate and the US Congress

But Bersamin said he would not allow foreing interference on the country’s handling of de Lima’s cases, saying courts in the Philippines are fully functioning.

“Kung didiktahan tayo kung anong gagawin natin sa isang bagay na nandoon na sa mga hukuman, hindi ko papayagan ‘yun kasi ang batas d’yan is let the courts function, anyway they are functioning, and let the person involved there do it and answer the charges in that forum,” Bersamin said.

“I was discharging a judicial function, she came to the court and ask for relief and we considered the plea we debated it. Of course, she should not expect that all of us will agree one way or the other. I happened to take the side against her because I am not convinced that we should deprive the trial court to have jurisdiction against her,” he continued.#

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