PH bars entry of 2 US senators backing De Lima; warns of visas for all Americans

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 27 2019 01:56 PM | Updated as of Dec 27 2019 03:36 PM

US Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy have been barred from entering the country. From the official websites of US Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy

MANILA - The Philippines on Friday barred from entry 2 United States senators supportive of detained Philippine Sen. Leila de Lima amid the possible US ban on Filipino officials behind her arrest

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Bureau of Immigration to deny Philippine entry to US Senators Patrick Leahy and Dick Durbin after they sought to ban Filipino officials involved in what they called the "wrongful imprisonment" of De Lima, a staunch administration critic.

"The President 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 provision in the US 2020 Budget, entry to the Philippines," Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo said Friday.

De Lima's detention was included in provisions of the US government's $1.4-trillion 2020 budget signed by US President Donald Trump earlier this month.

A provision in the budget on “Prohibition on Entry” allows US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to bar foreign government officials from entering the US if he has "credible information" on their involvement in the "wrongful imprisonment" of De Lima. 

Should the US push through with the ban on Filipino officials over De Lima's case, Panelo said Americans planning to visit the Philippines would be required to secure a visa.

"Should a ban from entry into US 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.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the ban on the 2 US lawmakers is effective immediately while the possible visa requirement for Americans still depends on how Washington will implement its ban in relation to De Lima's case.

"It appears therefore that the President’s countermove hinges on the actual implementation of the US travel ban against certain Filipino individuals," Guevarra said.

De Lima has been detained since February 2017 over allegations that she received payoffs from jailed drug lords during her time as justice chief. She has repeatedly denied the allegations, blasting her detention as "political persecution."

-with a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News