U.S. President Donald Trump is apparently hellbent on having President Rodrigo Duterte attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-U.S. Summit in Las Vegas in March, or at least, so says Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr.
Locsin tweeted yesterday that members of the regional bloc of nations decided to hold a special summit in the U.S. during a meeting of foreign ministers last week in Nha Trang City, Vietnam.
“Sadly for him, Trump really wants Duterte to be there. He’s invited him again and again,” the foreign affairs secretary wrote in his tweet.
(“Sadly,” apparently, because Duterte has rebuffed multiple invitations to travel to the U.S. “because it’s lousy.”)
Before there could be an invitation there had to be an ASEAN consensus (unanimous vote) to hold an ASEAN-US Summit wch happened in Nha Trang 3 days ago and conveyed to the White House. Sadly for him Trump really wants Duterte to be there. He’s invited him again and again. https://t.co/YPp7nHPito
— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) January 21, 2020
An invitation letter sent to Malacañang on Sunday said that the special meet will allow ASEAN’s 10 members, and the U.S., to “broaden and deepen our cooperation on matters of great importance to the nearly one billion people in the United States and Asean nations that we have the privilege to represent.”
Trump has repeatedly invited Duterte to Washington since taking office in 2017. Duterte, however, has repeatedly said that he will never set foot in the United States during his term after the U.S. government, under former President Barack Obama, criticized his bloody anti-drug campaign.
What’s more, things have been a tad frosty between the Philippines and the U.S. lately, in spite of their longstanding status as treaty allies. Duterte famously pivoted away from the States and towards China upon taking office, and Trump recently signed a budget that came with a provision barring entry to Filipino government officials involved in the detention of Senator Leila De Lima, a staunch Duterte critic. In retaliation, Duterte barred three U.S. senators behind the provision from visiting the Philippines, and even threatened to end visa-free travel for all American visitors.
The senators Duterte banned — Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, and Edward Markey — were also responsible for a non-binding resolution urging Trump to invoke the Global Magnitsky Act against the Philippines, which would authorize the U.S. to sanction human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the country.
Even so, on a personal level Trump and Duterte appear friendly enough, ever since the U.S. president’s visit to the 2017 ASEAN meet in Manila, where Trump lauded his “great friendship” with Duterte. Trump even reportedly called Duterte a regular “Frank Sinatra” after Rody performed a musical number at the summit (again, so says Teddy).
But despite Duterte’s avowal to never set foot on U.S. soil, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo hinted to reporters in a phone interview that he might be reconsidering his stance, The Philippine Daily Inquirer reports.
“I haven’t talked to [the president]… but given that this is an ASEAN meeting of leaders, the president might be persuaded to attend,” Panelo said.
It appears, however, that if Duterte were to visit the U.S., one of his most loyal allies, Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, won’t be be tagging along — just this afternoon, Dela Rosa confirmed that the U.S. government had cancelled his visa.
Back in December, Dela Rosa had admitted that he was steering clear of visiting the U.S., after reports came in that his visa had been canceled over alleged extrajudicial killings under his watch as former chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP). Dela Rosa was also PNP chief when Senator De Lima was detained in 2017 on accusations of extortion based on less-than-credible evidence.
Dela Rosa said he received official word of the cancellation from the U.S. government on Jan. 10, though it was unclear when they voided his visa.
“No date was given; [they said] I should just reapply if I want [to obtain a U.S. visa] because the present visa was canceled,” he said.