American Senator Edward Markey, the third U.S. lawmaker to be barred from traveling to the Philippines for siding with a Filipino opposition politician, said yesterday that he wasn’t at all fazed by President Rodrigo Duterte’s “strongman tactics.”
Last week, Duterte ordered the Immigration Bureau to deny entry to two other “imperious” U.S. senators, Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy, after they successfully pushed for the inclusion of a provision in the U.S. budget barring foreign officials from entering the U.S. if there was “credible information” of their involvement in the “wrongful imprisonment” of certain politically sensitive prisoners, one of whom was identified as Filipino opposition Senator De Lima.
A few days later, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte’s politically-motivated travel ban had also been extended to Senator Markey, who brushed off the development in a statement on Thursday.
“President Duterte is sorely mistaken if he thinks he can silence my voice and that of my colleagues,” Markey, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in the statement.
Though the U.S. has not made public the names of any Philippine officials theoretically barred from entering the country, that hasn’t stopped the Duterte administration from retaliating with threats to end visa-free travel to the Philippines for all American citizens. (The U.S. was the Philippines’ third-largest source of tourists last year, with over one million Americans visiting the country.)
Panelo had previously lashed out against the alleged U.S. “interference” in the Philippines’ “processes as a sovereign estate,” insisting that De Lima’s case was not one of “persecution, but of prosecution.” De Lima’s case is currently before the Supreme Court, and she has been imprisoned for more than two years without a conviction in an alleged extortion case that has raised eyebrows among rights advocates for its lack of credible evidence.
She was arrested shortly after opening a Senate investigation into President Duterte’s bloody drug war.
The U.S. Senate is separately considering a resolution — sponsored by Markey, and co-sponsored by Durbin and Leahy — calling for the release of De Lima, though the government has not explained why its travel ban does not apply to the resolution’s nine other cosponsors: Marco Rubio, Cory Booker, Marsha Blackburn, Chris Coons, Jeff Merkley, Tina Smith, Brian Schatz, Dianne Feinstein, and Benjamin Cardin.
The U.S. measures, meanwhile, are just the latest in a steady drumbeat of calls for the senator’s release from various political figures and organizations, both here and abroad.
Senator Markey added his voice to the outcry on Thursday, saying Duterte “has already failed to silence Senator De Lima, [Rappler CEO] Maria Ressa, and others in his country who have spoken truth to power.”
“I stand with the people of the Philippines and with my state’s vibrant Filipino-American community in fighting for the highest democratic ideals and against the strongman tactics of the Duterte government,” he added.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Sen. Markey’s resolution had passed the Senate in December. In fact, it cleared the Committee on Foreign Relations in December, and was passed by the Senate in January. It also incorrectly stated that the resolution had eight co-sponsors apart from Sens. Markey, Durbin, and Leahy. In fact, it had nine. Coconuts Manila apologizes for any confusion caused.