The Philippine government has banned two US lawmakers from entering the country and is to establish new visa rules for American nationals if the US authorities impose sanctions over Senator Leila de Lima's imprisonment, the Reuters news agency reported, citing the president's spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
“We will not sit idly if they continue to interfere with our processes as a sovereign state”, he said at a news conference. “The case of Senator de Lima is not one of persecution but of prosecution”, Salvador Panelo added.
Previously, US senators Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy introduced a provision in the 2020 budget which contains a proposition to deny Philippine officials who were involved in Leila de Lima's detention entry to the United States.
“This is about the right of Filipino citizens - and people everywhere - to freely express their opinions, including opinions that may be critical of government policies that involve the use of excessive force and the denial of due process”, Leahy’s spokesman David Carle commented on the matter.
US politicians have publicly condemned Senator Leila de Lima’s arrest. She has been a harsh critic of the deaths incurred during Duterte's anti-drug campaign and was taken into custody in 2017 over allegations she received bribes from imprisoned drug lords. She remains on trial and is not eligible for bail, and if convicted on all counts, faces life imprisonment.