If you think Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa is crying over his canceled American visa, think again.
Dela Rosa told reporters yesterday he doesn’t really give a flying f**k about the visa decision — which is a bit odd, given that it was cited by President Rodrigo Duterte as the reason for a recent threat to tear up a decades-old military agreement with the superpower in retaliation.
Nonetheless, the senator said he has no plans to ask the U.S. embassy in Manila to reconsider.
“It’s a privilege,” he started, starting off sounding rather reasonable (before sneaking in a testy jab at the end). “I’m not so arrogant that I would demand them. No. If you don’t like to, then don’t. If you don’t like me, I don’t like you also.”
Dela Rosa announced the cancellation last week. While the American embassy has reportedly declined to give him an explanation, many believe it has something to do with the recent U.S. legislation that allows for travel bans on Philippine officials implicated in the ongoing detention of opposition Senator Leila de Lima (whom dela Rosa jailed back when he was the country’s chief of police). A separate U.S. Senate resolution has also called on the executive branch to impose sanctions on Filipino officials involved in human rights violations under the Global Magnitsky Act.
Word of the cancellation was enough to prompt Duterte to vow to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the U.S., which grants the latter jurisdiction over American servicemen accused of crimes while stationed in the country.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin began the process of terminating the VFA, but early this week, the president appeared to pump the brakes, ordering Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to first study the impact of its termination on Philippine-U.S. relations. At present, Duterte’s threat appears to be just that – a threat.
As for dela Rosa, he admitted last month (when the cancellation of his visa was still conjecture) that he was sad at the prospect of no longer being able to watch Manny Pacquiao’s fights in Las Vegas, or to visit his U.S.-based siblings, but based on his recent statement, he seems to be coming to terms with it.