The series of invitations from the White House for President Rody Duterte to visit the United States is unvarnished proof that the Trump administration considers as a mere nuisance the Democrat senators’ ban on the entry of Philippine officials being pointed to as responsible for the detention of suspected drug trafficker Leila de Lima.
Mr. Duterte is among the nine state leaders invited to attend the upcoming US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Las Vegas on 14 March.
“The American people and I hope to see you in the United States soon,” the invitation to Mr. Duterte and other ASEAN leaders read. Trump has repeatedly invited Duterte to the US since April 2017.
The two leaders met for the first time during the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila in November 2017.
The Palace referred to the invitations as a rebuke of the adverse US Senate resolution that pushed the ban and also sought the unconditional release of De Lima.
Palace spokesman Sal Panelo said if Trump has given weight to the Democrat’s move, then the invitation should have been withdrawn instead of being continuously extended.
The United States’ 2020 budget law contained a provision that bars the entry of those behind De Lima’s wrongful detention.
The US Senate then subsequently passed a resolution that essentially urged Trump to impose the sanctions on Philippine government officials provided in the budget law.
Senate Resolution 142 condemned the continued detention of De Lima and, as an added treat, assailed the supposed harassment of online news outfit Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa that merely established the character of the Democrat party’s effort as propaganda.
Trump’s offer for Rody to set foot in the United States stood despite the Philippine President once vowing it would never happen, citing the several past atrocities of the Americans against the Filipino nation.
Apparently, the anxiety on the historic US visit is more from Trump rather than Mr. Duterte since the Philippine President had made clear his aversion to traveling, particularly to the US.
His distaste was brought about apparently as a result of first impression since, when he assumed the presidency, then US President Barack Obama launched an attack against the conduct of his signature war on drugs.
In an arrogant fashion befitting an imperial master ordering a subjugated colony, Obama told Mr. Duterte to implement the war “the right way.”
Also, the President cited health issues in his preference to avoid a US travel, as he said the long journey and the cold weather are issues for him.
Of course, Mr. Duterte did not have a hard time enduring the extreme cold of the Russian weather when he paid President Vladimir Putin a visit.
The detractors of Rody are again on the move to frustrate the visit, but Mr. Duterte as a moving spirit in the ASEAN points to the necessity of his presence even if not for Trump who is apparently capitalizing on the engagement with Asian leaders to boost his reelection chances in November.
The Philippine leader’s consideration on the visit would definitely consider the greater benefit of the country.