President Rodrigo Duterte has been invited by United States leader Donald Trump to attend a summit between him and other Southeast Asian leaders on March 14 in Las Vegas, despite a recent US law banning entry of all Philippine officials supposedly behind the arrest of Senator Leila de Lima.
Trump extended the invitation to President Duterte and other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations through a letter dated Jan. 9, according to a press statement from the Palace.
It was first conveyed during the US-Asean meeting in Bangkok last November, which Trump and Duterte skipped.
Trump was represented then by his national security adviser Robert O’Brien, as Duterte was represented by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
Among Southeast Asian leaders, only prime ministers Thongloun Sisoulith of Laos, Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam, and Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand were present during the US-Asean Summit.
The Palace has yet to confirm if Duterte will attend the upcoming US-Asean summit after Trump approved America’s 2020 budget containing a provision that bans Philippine officials behind the detention of De Lima, a vocal critic of the administration’s anti-drug campaign.
The provision mandated US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to bar local officials from entering their territory, proven that they were linked to the “wrongful imprisonment” of the Philippine senator.
Malacañang has repeatedly slammed the provision, saying it was “affront” to the country’s sovereignty and legal processes.
If the US will enforce the ban, the Palace also said the country would require Americans―excluding Filipino-Americans or balikbayans―to secure visas before coming here.
Meanwhile, American lawmakers Richard Durbin, Edward Markey, and Patrick Leahy were barred by the Palace from entering the country, after they sponsored Senate Resolution 142 which called for De Lima’s release.
The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed that resolution.
De Lima has been in detention since February 2017 due to pending two counts of drug-related charges. She has claimed the President and Duterte’s allies had a hand in her detention.