2 U.S. senators barred from Philippines after defending government critic

Kathryn Krawczyk

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) won't be headed to the Philippines anytime soon.

The two Democrats are banned from the country after they included a provision aiding a top critic of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in Congress' 2020 spending bill, Duterte's spokesperson announced Friday. Duterte is also considering requiring all U.S. citizens to get visas before traveling to the country if Durbin and Leahy's provision goes through, Reuters reports.

In early 2017, the prominent Duterte critic and Filipino Sen. Leila de Lima was arrested on drug offenses "after she led an investigation into mass killings during Duterte's notorious anti-drugs crackdown," Reuters writes. This year's congressional spending bill includes a provision blocking anyone involved with Lima's arrest and detention from entering the U.S.

Currently, the Philippines allows U.S. citizens to enter without a visa for up to 30 days. But after the spending bill passed Congress, Duterte's spokesperson announced the potential change, saying "we will not sit idly if they continue to interfere with our processes as a sovereign state." The spokesperson added, "The case of Sen. de Lima is not one of persecution but of prosecution."

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