Malacañang bans another US senator calling for De Lima's release

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Senator Edward Markey is the third American lawmaker covered by a travel ban to the Philippines, as part of Malacañang's pushback against calls for the release of Senator Leila De Lima.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 2) — Malacañang has banned another American lawmaker from entering the Philippines over calls to release Senator Leila De Lima.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts is the third US official to be barred entry to the Philippines.

Last week, Panelo announced that the Bureau of Immigration has been ordered to refuse entry to American Senators Richard "Dick" Durbin and Patrick Leahy. The two authored the resolution that bans all Filipino officials who played a role in putting De Lima in jail from entering the United States.

The measure became of the US federal budget for 2020 that was signed by President Donald Trump.

"Lumalabas sa news items na very strong ang endorsement ni Markey [It appears that Markey has very strongly endorsed the measure," Panelo said in a press briefing Thursday.

EXPLAINER: How the US budget law bans Philippine officials

Markey wrote in a tweet back in October that Durbin and Leahy "are right to push for accountability in the Philippine government," adding that she should be freed immediately. ]

De Lima, a member of the opposition and a vocal critic of the bloody war on drugs of the Duterte administration, has been detained since February 2017 for supposedly abetting illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison while she was Justice secretary from 2010 to 2015.

Durbin has maintained that De Lima has been imprisoned for "highly questionable charges," even as Malacañang insisted that her detention has legal basis.

READ: US senator asks Philippine gov’t to free De Lima instead of denying visas to Americans

Panelo also said that should the order banning select Philippine officials from entering the US be implemented, Malacañang will retaliate by requiring all US citizens to secure travel visa before coming to this country.

Under the current setup, US citizens visiting the Philippines do not need to apply for a visa for a stay of not more than 30 days. Durbin warned on Tuesday that Filipino-Americans may also suffer with this threat of a visa requirement.