Philippines bars 2 US senators; new visa rules eyed

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
Philippines bars 2 US senators; new visa rules eyed
Durbin and Leahy

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has ordered the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to prevent US Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy from entering the country, after they led the filing of a provision in the US budget that supports the call to free Sen. Leila de Lima and ban entry to the US of certain Philippine officials involved in the filing of cases against her.

“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,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said at a press briefing in Malacañang yesterday.

The President informed him about the decision on Thursday night. 

Panelo contradicted a claim in the provision that also supposedly recognized that De Lima’s incarceration was a result of persecution by the Duterte administration. 

“The case of Senator De Lima is not one of persecution but of prosecution,” the Palace official said, pre-empting any attempt by the political opposition to use the provision to further their attacks against Duterte, whose drug war is being questioned before the International Criminal Court.

De Lima has been given due process under Philippine laws, Panelo said, disputing her claims of being politically persecuted by the President.

“In fact, it is already being heard by our courts. The Philippine Supreme Court, the highest court of our land, has affirmed the incarceration of Senator De Lima as valid and lawful,” he said.

Panelo reiterated that the Philippines is an independent and sovereign state. “It stands in parity with all other states, including the US, and any form of pressure that is tantamount to an interference into its established justice system shall be reciprocated in accordance with our municipal law, as well as public international law or the law of nations,” he said.

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, Panelo said the Duterte government will require all Americans intending to come to the Philippines to apply and secure a visa before they can enter Philippine territory.

“If they will enforce this provision in the US budget, then we will be compelled (to require) all Americans entering this country to secure a visa,” he said.

Ready to implement ban

While the Department of Justice (DOJ) has yet to receive a formal order from Malacañang on the entry ban of Senators Durbin and Leahy to the Philippines, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that, through the BI, they are ready to implement it but that the requirement for Americans to obtain Philippine visa will be “subject to a suspensive condition.”  

“The requirement to obtain Philippine visas is subject to a suspensive condition, but the travel ban on the two US senators is effective immediately, according to a written statement from the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson,” Guevarra added.  

The BI is an attached agency of the DOJ.  

BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval also confirmed to The STAR that the bureau has yet to receive the formal order from Malacañang as far as the entry ban of Durbin and Leahy to the Philippines is concerned. Sandoval, however, said the BI “will follow and implement the instructions in the order.” – With Robertzon Ramirez

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