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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats see Mulvaney as smoking gun witness at Trump trial Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment MORE (D-Ill.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenators ask FDA to crack down on non-dairy milks, cheeses Lawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request 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.