MANILA, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- The spokesperson of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday slammed the United States senators anew for what it called "brazen interference" in Philippine internal affairs.
Salvador Panelo accused U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy and Richard Durbin for calling for the release of jailed opposition Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, a staunch critic of Duterte who has been in jail since February 2017.
"The call of these foreign officials to release de Lima, who is presently facing charges before an independent Philippine court, is a brazen interference into our sovereignty," Panelo said in a statement.
Leahy has earlier called on the Duterte government to "either release de Lima immediately or provide her the fair, public trial she is entitled to."
Durbin echoed Leahy's call, saying that "the Duterte regime should stop threatening the travel of these Filipino Americans and so many others who travel between our nations, and instead release Senator de Lima or assure a quick and credible trial."
The Philippines retaliated by issuing a warning to ban Leahy and Durbin from entering the country and to impose visa requirements on Americans if Washington enforces sanctions over de Lima's detention.
Leahy and Durbin were reacting to the Duterte government's plan to ban the two U.S. senators from visiting the Philippines and put more restrictions U.S. citizens who want to visit the country.
Duterte's move comes after the U.S. Congress approved a 2020 budget that contains a provision introduced by Leahy and Durbin against anyone involved in jailing de Lima.
The Duterte administration charged Senator de Lima with drug offences in 2017 after she led an investigation into mass killings during Duterte's war on drugs.
Panelo said imposing requirements in securing a visa to foreign nationals prior to entry into the Philippines is an exercise of a sovereign right and is not an insult to any particular community.
"In fact, they have been requiring Filipinos to secure a U.S. visa before we can travel into their homeland. As the community of nation believes in, 'diplomacy is equality,'" Panelo added.
He said the two senators' "alternative demand to provide the lady senator a fair, speedy and credible trial is totally misplaced because precisely, that is being given her by the hearing court as required by the constitution."
"If any party feels that such constitutional guarantee is not being observed, then such party should avail of appropriate remedial measures under Philippine law instead of resorting to unfair publicity stunts," he said.
Panelo further said that de Lima's detention "is a case between de Lima and the people of the Philippines."
"Our criminal statutes are believed to be violated by her. All Filipinos are impleaded in her case by reason of her wrongful acts. Hence, any undue persuasion that tramples upon our judicial processes or puts any form of tension on the officers of our courts relative thereto must be condemned accordingly by all citizens of this state," Panelo added.
Moreover, he said allegations of violation of human rights on de Lima's case "are coming from either absolute ignorance or shameful bias."
"It is high time for these U.S. senators to consult their U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Sung Yong Kim who is knowledgeable on our local processes before they start blabbering further nonsense," Panelo said.