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Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Patrick Leahy | Photos from U.S. Senate

The Philippines has ordered an entry ban on two United States senators who have been calling for the release of Senator Leila De Lima, and is considering tighter restrictions for U.S. citizens visiting the country, according to President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman on Friday, December 27.

Duterte has instructed the Philippine Bureau of Immigration “immediately” to deny U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy entry into the Philippines, after they pushed for provisions in the U.S. 2020 budget that prohibit Philippine government officials involved with the imprisonment of Senator Leila De Lima from coming to the U.S.

“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 Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a media briefing on Friday.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed the country’s 2020 budget earlier this week, which included the senators’ amendment that the U.S. Secretary of State “shall apply sub-section (c) to foreign government officials about whom the secretary has credible information have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment of… Sen. Leila De Lima who was arrested in the Philippines in 2017.”

In response to the U.S.’ actions, the Duterte administration would require American citizens planning to visit the Philippines to secure a visa, Panelo explained.

The implementation of the U.S.’ ban on Philippine officials has yet to take effect, however.

“Should a ban from entry into U.S. territory be enforced against Philippine officials involved in — or by reason of  — Senator de Lima’s lawful imprisonment, this government will require all Americans intending to come to the Philippines to apply and secure a visa before they can enter Philippine territory,” Panelo said.

This will also include dual citizens or Filipinos who are now U.S. citizens, regardless of the purpose of the visit.

“All Americans, if you are a U.S. citizen then you are an American,” Panelo said.

Currently, the Philippines allows U.S. citizens to enter and stay in the country visa-free for 30 days.

This year alone, 792,000 Americans visited in the first nine months, comprising 13% of foreign arrivals, according to government data.

Panelo added, “We will not sit idly if they continue to interfere with our processes as a sovereign estate.

De Lima, who is a vocal critic of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, was charged with several drug offenses and has been imprisoned for the past two years.

“No other state can dictate upon our officials, judges, and justices the method upon which we enforce or interpret our laws vis-à-vis those who are believed to have committed a violation against the same,” Panelo said. 

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