Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- President Rodrigo Duterte has warned that Americans who want to enter the former US colony will be required to obtain a visa if the U.S. refuses entry to officials involved in the detention of one of his main critics.

Duterte also ordered the immigration bureau to ban U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy and Dick Durbin from the Philippines for introducing a provision in the U.S. 2020 budget supporting Senator Leila de Lima - who has been criticizing Duterte's drug crackdowns since he was a local mayor - presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said at a briefing on Friday.

"We will not sit idly if they continue to interfere in our processes as a sovereign state," Panelo said, referring to the U.S.

De Lima, who launched investigations on Duterte's alleged hand in extrajudicial killings, has been detained for more than two years on drug charges which she has denied.

President Duterte’s harsh measures against drug dealers has raised an outcry in international legal circles but is popular with many in the Philippines who are tired of the endless violence and corruption associated with the drugs trade.

Threat and counter threat on the subject of visas have been intermittent between the two countries. The Philippinesgovernment has not been slow to take advantage of the rise of China to play one great power off against another.

The Philippines currently grants visa-free entry for up to 30 days to Americans, 792,000 of whom visited in the first nine months of 2019, nearly 13% of foreign arrivals according to Reuters.

The U.S. embassy in Manila and the State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but Leahy’s spokesman David Carle called the charges against de Lima politically motivated, and added:

“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.”

According to the US State Department there are an estimated four million U.S. citizens of Philippine ancestry in the United States, and more than 220,000 U.S. citizens in the Philippines, including a large presence of United States veterans. An estimated 650,000 U.S. citizens visit the Philippines each year. Many Filipinos, especially the military have been ‘westernized’ and are pro-American.

Despite these important and close links, the relations between the two countries have been contaminated by a tragic colonial past. From 1565 until 1898 the Philippines was a Spanish colony. The Filipinos never fully accepted colonial rule. Indeed at the battle of Mactan in 1521, their leader Lapu-Lapu not only defeated the Spanish invaders but killed their commander, the famous explorer, Ferdinand Magellan. Howeverthe centuries of Spanish rule formed the 7,000 islands of the Philippines into a single country.

When the United States defeated the Spanish in the Spanish-American War 1898 Instead of bringing independence to the colony, they replaced Madrid as the colonial power. There then followed the horrific American-Philippine war that lasted until 1902. The United States occupying forces used brutal methods to suppress resistance and up to a million Filipinos died, many from starvation and disease.

On April 27, 2017, in honoring Lapu-Lapu as the first hero who resisted foreign rule in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte inaugurated the anniversary of the battle of Mactan as Lapu-Lapu Day.

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