US Senate asks Trump to sanction Filipino officials linked to killings, De Lima detention

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 9) — The United States' Senate has passed a measure seeking sanctions for Philippine officials involved in alleged extrajudicial killings and the detention of opposition Senator Leila de Lima.

Senate Resolution No. 142 was "passed/agreed to in Senate" on Thursday, according to the website of the upper chamber.

It calls on President Donald Trump to deny US entry to and block all US-based transactions in property and interests of "members of the security forces and officials of the Government of the Philippines responsible for extrajudicial killings... and responsible for orchestrating the arrest and prolonged detention of Senator De Lima."

READ: Asset freeze for De Lima accusers, jailers sought in US Senate

The move is in line with the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, an American law which allows Washington to punish foreign officials implicated in "significant corruption or gross violations of human rights" in any part of the world. Under the law, the US President shall decide on requests to impose sanctions on human rights violators and corrupt foreigners within 120 days.

The US Senate's new resolution also called on the Philippine government to immediately release De Lima and allow her to fulfill her duties as a lawmaker. The American senators agreed that De Lima is a "prisoner of conscience, detained solely on account of her political views and the legitimate exercise of her freedom of expression."

De Lima has been detained since 2017 on drug charges, which she and human rights groups believe are fabricated cases meant to silence her for being a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his bloody war on drugs.

More or less 6,000 people have been killed in the anti-drug campaign, government data show. Local and international advocacy groups say there are thousands more of extrajudicial killings, as a result of Duterte's public pronouncements to finish all drug addicts.

The US Senate condemns "the Government of the Philippines for its role in state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings by police and other armed individuals as part of the 'War on Drugs,'" the resolution read.

It also urged the Philippines to drop all charges against Maria Ressa and online news site Rappler, which are perceived to be part of the Duterte administration's crackdown on its critics.

Malacañang has repeatedly denied that there are state-sanctioned killings, and stressed that the cases of De Lima and Ressa are now being tried by the country's independent courts.

The Philippine government recently got back at US Senator Edward Markey, author of Senate Resolution No. 142, by banning him from the Philippines. American Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy can no longer set foot in Manila as well, for their proposal to ban De Lima's accusers – an amendment that was passed along with U.S.' 2020 budget.

Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo has said the government would require all Americans to secure a visa before entering the Philippines – regardless of the purpose and length of their visit – if the US enforces the ban on Filipino officials. At present, US citizens visiting the Philippines for not more than 30 days do not need a visa.

READ: 'Just tit for tat': Gov't bans 2 US senators, threatens to require visa for all Americans