The Philippines has banned two U.S. lawmakers from visiting and President Rodrigo Duterte will impose visa requirements on U.S. nationals 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 2017 after she led an investigation into mass killings during Duterte’s war on drugs.
“We will not sit idly if they continue to interfere with our processes as a sovereign state,” Philippine presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told a 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.
The U.S. embassy in Manila and the State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but Leahy’s spokesman David Carle called the charges against de Lima politically motivated, and added:
“This is about the right of Filipino citizens – and people everywhere – to freely express their opinions, including opinions that may be critical of government policies that involve the use of excessive force and the denial of due process.”
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