The Philippines has banned two U.S. lawmakers from visiting and will introduce tighter entry restrictions for U.S. citizens should Washington enforce sanctions over the detention of a top government critic, the President’s spokesman said on Friday, Reuters writes.
President Rodrigo Duterte will impose a requirement on U.S. nationals to get visas should any Philippine officials involved in the incarceration of Senator Leila de Lima be denied entry to the United States, as sought by U.S. senators Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy.
Duterte’s move comes after the U.S. Congress approved a 2020 budget that contains a provision introduced by the senators against anyone involved in holding de Lima, who was charged with drug offences in early 2017 after she led an investigation into mass killings during Duterte’s notorious anti-drugs crackdown.
“We will not sit idly if they continue to interfere with our processes as a sovereign state,” Philippine presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told a regular news conference.
The Philippines grants visa-free entry for up to 30 days to Americans, 792,000 of whom visited in the first nine months of 2019, nearly 13% of foreign arrivals, government data showed.
Panelo said travel restrictions over de Lima’s detention were nonsense because she was not wrongfully imprisoned but detained pending trial for crimes. “The case of Senator de Lima is not one of persecution but of prosecution,” he said.
Duterte makes no secret of his disdain for the United States and what he considers its hypocrisy and interference, though he admits that most Filipinos and his military have high regard for their country’s former colonial ruler, Reuters adds.
The United States is the Philippines biggest defense ally and its main source of Western influence. Millions of Filipinos have relatives who are U.S. citizens.