MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Bureau of Immigration to deny entry to American Senators Patrick Leahy and Richard Durbin, Malacañang said Friday.
It was Leahy and Durbin who pushed for the inclusion of a provision in the US 2020 budget banning the entry of Philippine officials linked to the detention of Filipino Senator Leila De Lima.
“The Philippines is immediately ordering the Bureau of Immigration to deny US Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy, the imperious, uninformed and gullible US legislators who introduced the provision in the 2020 budget entry to the Philippines,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing in Malacañang.
Panelo said the president asked him to issue the statement as proof that the Philippines will not sit idly by if the US continues to interfere with the country’s processes as a sovereign estate.
On December 20, US President Donald Trump signed into law the 2020 State, Foreign Operations and Related Program Appropriations Bill which included an amendment to deny entry to the US of Philippine government officials involved in De Lima’s detention.
A provision on the law allows US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to prohibit entry to government officials if he has credible information on their involvement in the “wrongful imprisonment” of the Filipino senator.
Democrat Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy authored the amendment in the US 2020 budget which was approved by the US Senate Appropriations Committee in September.
De Lima, one of Duterte administration’s fierce critics, has been detained since 2017 over her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade. She has repeatedly denied the charges.
Panelo reiterated that De Lima’s detention was not a case of political persecution, insisting that the senator was afforded due process and that there is a “probable cause” to issue a warrant for her arrest.
Should the US entry ban be enforced, Panelo said the government would also require American citizens to secure a visa before they will be allowed to enter the Philippines, regardless of the purpose of the visit.
“Should the ban from entry to US territories 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 the Philippine territory,” he said.
He added that the policy will include dual citizens or Filipinos who have secured US citizenship.
Panelo said the president has thought long and hard about the decision, including its possible impact on the country’s economy and tourism.
“When the president makes a decision, circumstances are factored in,” he said.
Panelo further stated that Duterte will formally decline Trump’s standing invitation for him to visit the US. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)
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