The Philippines announced Friday that it has banned two U.S. senators from traveling to the country while threatening to impose stricter visa requirements for all Americans in response to new sanctions.
Reuters reports that the move comes after Congress approved a 2020 budget that contains a provision introduced by Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., that would bar entry into the U.S. to any official involved in the incarceration of Philippine Senator Leila de Lima.
"Senator Leila de Lima has bravely defended human rights throughout her career. We should defend hers," Leahy tweeted in October.
Both Democratic senators were promptly barred from the country, though it's not clear whether they had any plans to visit.
"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," said Salvador Panelo, spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, according to CNN Philippines.
Duterte reportedly intends to require U.S. citizens to get visas if officials are in fact denied entry to the U.S. The country currently grants Americans up to 30 days of visa-free entry.
De Lima was imprisoned on drug charges after she launched investigations into Duterte’s alleged role in extrajudicial killings during the anti-drug crackdown by the president’s administration. De Lima denies those charges.
“We will not sit idly if they continue to interfere with our processes as a sovereign state,” Panelo told reporters, according to Reuters.
Panelo also dismissed the U.S. criticism of De Lima's detention, saying that De Lima is not wrongfully imprisoned but detained ahead of prosecution for alleged crimes.