Philippines president bans 2 US senators from entering country over support of top government critic

The Philippines has banned two U.S. senators from visiting and has threatened to introduce stricter entry restrictions for all American citizens over proposed U.S. sanctions on the Philippines following the detention of a critic of the country’s government, Reuters reported.

President Rodrigo Duterte said he will impose a requirement on U.S. citizens to obtain visas in the country if any Philippine official involved in the jailing of Senator Leila de Lima is denied entry to the United States. Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinManchin: Negotiators to miss Friday target for deal on reconciliation bill Democrats look for plan B on filibuster The Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats MORE (D-Ill.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Democrats address reports that clean energy program will be axed Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised On The Money — Democrats tee up Senate spending battles with GOP MORE (D-Vt.) have sought the move.

He ordered the country’s Bureau of Immigration to refuse entry to the Democratic lawmakers, CNN Philippines reported.

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"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," presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters Friday, according to CNN. Duterte asked Panelo to implement the ban immediately. 

Congress has approved a 2020 budget that contains a provision blocking those who were involved in de Lima’s incarceration from entering the U.S. She was charged with drug offenses in 2017 after leading an investigation into mass killings amid Duterte’s anti-drugs attacks.  

“We will not sit idly if they continue to interfere with our processes as a sovereign state,” Panelo also said, Reuters reported. 

“The case of Senator de Lima is not one of persecution but of prosecution,” he continued.

American citizens can currently enter the Philippines without a visa for up to 30 days, and the two countries have been longtime allies. 

De Lima, who has won multiple human rights awards and formerly served as a justice minister in the country, expressed her gratitude to the U.S. Congress, Reuters reported.