President Rodrigo Duterte has banned two Democrat Senators from visiting the Philippines and will introduce tighter restrictions for US citizens. Should Washington enforce sanctions over the detention of a top government critic.
President Duterte said he will impose a requirement on US nationals to get visas should any Philippine officials involved in the incarceration of Senator Leila De Lima be denied entry to America. A law sought by US Democratic senators Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy.
Duterte’s move comes after the US Congress approved a 2020 budget that contains a provision against anyone involved in holding De Lima. She was charged with drug offences in early 2017. De Lima lead an investigation into mass killings during Duterte’s 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 news conference.
The Philippines grants visa-free entry for up to 30 days to Americans. Consequently some 792,000 Americans visited the Philippines in the first nine months of 2019. Above all nearly 13 per cent 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.
Filipinos and have high regard for US
Meanwhile, President Duterte makes no secret of his disdain for the United States. Above all what he considers its hypocrisy and interference. Though he admits that most Filipinos and have high regard for their country’s former liberators.
The US is the Philippines biggest defence ally and its main source of Western influence. Millions of Filipinos have relatives who are US citizens.
De Lima, a justice minister in a former administration, expressed what she described as overwhelming gratitude to the US Congress for its help.
She has won numerous awards from human rights groups, who consider her a prisoner of conscience.
De Lima has constantly spoken out against Duterte. Calling for an international investigation into his war on drugs.
Police say those killed were drug dealers who resisted arrest, but activists believe many of the killings were murders.