Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte has banned two U.S senators from entering the country, and threatened to require all U.S citizens to apply for a visa, his spokesman said on Friday.
Duterte immediately ordered the Bureau of Immigration to deny U.S Senators Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy entry to the Philipines, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
The two senators had introduced a provision in the U.S national budget prohibiting the entry in the United States of Philippine government officials involved in the alleged wrongful detention of opposition Senator Leila de Lima on illegal drug charges.
“Should a ban from entry into U.S territory be enforced against Philippine officials involved in – or by reason of Senator de Lima’s lawful imprisonment.
“This government will require all Americans intending to come to the Philippines to apply and secure a visa before they can enter Philippine territory,’’ Panelo said.
He noted that Durbin and Leahy were imperious, uninformed and gullible for believing that de Lima was wrongfully imprisoned.
“The case of Senator de Lima is not one of persecution but of prosecution, he said.
“In fact, it is already being heard by our courts.’’
De Lima has been detained since February 2017 over allegations she received payoffs from jailed illegal drug lords when she was head of the Department of Justice.
She has denied the allegations and accused the Duterte administration of political persecution.
The national disaster risk reduction office, on Friday, said the number of people confirmed dead since Typhoon Phanfone hit the Philippines on Christmas Eve has risen to 28 with 12 still missing.
Thousands of people were affected by the storm remain in temporary evacuation shelters.
The office said of the victims, 13 were from the province of Iloilo, 463km south of Manila, where the fatalities included a family of six who were swept away by raging floods.
It added that the other victims were from the provinces of Capiz, Aklan, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Biliran, Samar and Cebu.
Mark Timbal, spokesman for the national disaster risk reduction office said most of the dead were hit by falling trees or drowned.
He said a 13-year-old boy and a 38-year-old man were also electrocuted in separate accidents in Leyte and Southern Leyte.
Timbal added that the 12 missing were from Iloilo, Capiz and Eastern Samar.
Phanfone battered eastern and central provinces on Christmas Day, forcing over 58,000 residents to stay in evacuation centres as gale-force winds tore off rooftops and destroyed less sturdy houses.
The weather bureau said the typhoon was packing maximum sustained winds of 120km per hour (kph) and gusts of up to 150 kph as it moved north-west away from the country.
It added that the Typhoon was no longer affecting the country, but the tail-end of a cold front would bring heavy rain over the northern Philippines.
Phanfone was the 21st cyclone to hit the Philippines in 2019.
One of the strongest typhoons ever recorded, Typhoon Haiyan, hit the country in November 2013, killing more than 6,300 people and displacing more than 4 million.