Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has banned two United States senators from entering the Philippines and has warned it would tighten entry procedures for Americans traveling to the Philippines if the US continues to criticize the Duterte government over the detention of a top government critic.
“We will not sit idly if they continue to interfere with our processes as a sovereign state,” Philippine presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo announced.
He made such statements throughout a news conference, following the approval of a 2020 budget by the US Congress introduced by the senators Patrick Leahy and Dick Durbin, that contains a provision against anyone involved in holding de Lima, who was charged with drug offenses in 2017 after she led an investigation into mass killings during Duterte’s war on drugs.
“The Philippines is immediately ordering the Bureau of Immigration to deny US Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy – the imperious, uninformed, and gullible American legislators who introduced the subject provisions into the 2020 budget – entry to the Philippines,” Panelo announced.
Patrick Leahy, a politician serving as the senior United States Senator from Vermont, a seat to which he was first elected in 1974, is the longest-serving Democrat in the current 116th Congress. He has voiced his concerns regarding the imprisonment of Senator de Lima as well as the treatment of journalists by the Duterte government in the Philippines.
In a recent statement published on Senator Leahy’s website, he calls on the Duterte government to either release Senator De Lima or provide her a fair, public trial, following her continued detention by the Filipino government.
“Rather than responding by irrationally threatening to deny visas to American citizens, the Duterte government should either release Senator De Lima immediately or provide her the fair, public trial she is entitled to,” the statement reads.
Leahy also calls on Philippine government to stop trying to silence journalists, as Maria Ressa who bravely dare to expose official corruption and abuse, and instead to recognize her as a courageous Filipino exercising her right of free expression.
Following the continued detention of de Lima, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin also released a statement, in which he calls Senator Leila de Lima a “human rights champion”.
“Her release, which has been championed by groups such as Amnesty International – and now the U.S. Congress – is unfortunately symbolic of the larger price one increasingly pays for peaceful dissent and honest journalism under President Duterte in the Philippines,” he said in the statement.
He too asserted that voices like de Lima’s and Rappler journalist Maria Ressa’s, face harassment and imprisonment for fostering honest coverage regarding the country’s sweeping extra-judicial killings, which is an affront to the cherished democratic norms that the US “shares with its long-standing Filipino allies.”
Currently, US nationals can enter the Philippines with visa-free entry for up to 30 days to. In the first nine months of 2019, 792,000 Americans visited the Philippines, thus consisting of nearly 13% of foreign arrivals in the archipelagic country.