President Rodrigo Duterte said he will skip the summit of the United States
and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Las Vegas in March as he threatened to terminate a joint military pact with America if Washington does not correct the cancellation of Senator Ronald dela Rosa’s visa within a month.
READ: Trump ‘keen’ on Duterte visit to US; Dela Rosa visa scrapped
In an exclusive interview with RT, a Russia-based television network, President Duterte was asked if he would go to the United States following the invitation of American President Donald Trump
“No. No,” Duterte said in the interview, a portion of which was posted on RT’s Youtube channel on Thursday afternoon.
In a curse-laden speech in Leyte, the President said he will scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement and bar US senators from entering the Philippines should they fail to “correct” Dela Rosa’s visa status.
“I’m warning you, if you will not correct it, I will terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement. I’ll finish that, son of a bitch,” Duterte said.
“They have to start to talk to us because (otherwise) they have to go. Disrespectful,” he added.
Duterte’s threat came a day after Dela Rosa confirmed his visa has been canceled, acknowledging it “might be related” to alleged extrajudicial killings under his watch as chief of the Philippine National Police from 2016 to 2018.
Since 2016, at least 5,500 people have been killed in police anti-drug operations while human rights groups estimate the numbers to reach 30,000 to include those killed vigilante-style.
Senator Imee Marcos said Thursday she heard an unconfirmed report from the police that Washington has also voided the US visa of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and other military and police officials.
Speaking in Thursday’s “Kapihan sa Senado,” Marcos said there were reports that other officials like Lorenzana had also been blacklisted.
Lorenzana, for his part, denied the information relayed by Marcos.
“I have not applied for a tourist visa. My diplomatic visa is valid,” Lorenzana said.
The Palace on Thursday played down the cancellation of Dela Rosa’s US visa.
“It’s the prerogative and right of any state to disallow or to allow any citizen of any country,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said it was the right of the United States to decide who should be allowed to enter its borders and advised Dela Rosa to again try applying for a US visa.
Guevarra said the US government does not even have to explain why it canceled Dela Rosa’s visa.
In revoking Dela Rosa’s visa, the US State Department exercised its authority to deny visas to people implicated in gross human rights abuses, according to Human Rights Watch.
“Their action represents a shift in US policy towards the Philippine government and its ‘war on drugs,’ and sends the message that the US won’t do business with government officials implicated in atrocities,” said John Sifton, Asia Advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, in a statement Thursday.
Duterte, for his part, recalled that former US President Barack Obama had criticized him and his anti-drug campaign in a press conference.
In 2016, Duterte made headlines when he called Obama a “son of a bitch” by using the Filipino expletive after the US leader urged him to fight illegal drugs the “right way.”
Duterte later apologized to Obama.
“You know, one time, I was being criticized by Obama in a press conference. He should have realized that I was also a head of a sovereign state,” Duterte said in the interview.
This was not the first time Duterte declined Trump’s invitation to enter the US. Trump had previously invited him to visit Washington through a phone call in 2016, and through a letter from his Cabinet in 2018.
The third invitation came despite a recent US legislation banning the entry of all Philippine officials supposedly behind the arrest of Senator Leila de Lima.
Trump approved America’s 2020 budget containing a provision that bans Philippine officials behind the detention De Lima, a vocal critic of the administration’s crackdown on narcotics.
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 De Lima, who claims she has been persecuted by the Duterte administration.
The executive branch of the United States is also given the power to impose visa and travel restrictions and financial sanctions on human rights violators anywhere in the world through its Global Magnitsky Act. With Macon Ramos-Araneta, Rey E. Requejo, and Willie Casas