President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman on Sunday criticized a U.S. lawmaker for making a “baseless” accusation of abuse in the case of a detained critic of the Filipino leader.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo was reacting to a statement by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, who said the detention of Senator Leila De Lima was a “wrongful imprisonment”.
Leahy made the remarks in a statement he sent to local network ABS-CBN News on Friday, in which he criticized Panelo for saying Washington was interfering in Philippine affairs over a proposed travel ban against officials behind De Lima’s imprisonment.
De Lima, among the biggest critics of Duterte’s deadly anti-drugs crackdown, has been detained since 2017 on narcotics charges.
A U.S. Senate bill has been filed seeking to bar entry of Philippine officials found to be involved in De Lima’s imprisonment.
“Every year, the United States provides large amounts of aid to the Philippines, and I have supported that aid,” Leahy was quoted by ABS-CBN News as saying.
“I assume President Duterte’s spokesman who defended the wrongful imprisonment of Senator De Lima does not consider our aid to be ‘interfering’ in their sovereignty,” Leahy said.
Panelo said Leahy’s statement assumed the American lawmaker has sufficient knowledge of Philippine laws and had personally examined De Lima’s case.
Panelo also said in a statement Leahy had never visited the Philippines to personally examine De Lima’s case.—Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Jane Merriman