Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Thursday said that he is interested to meet the US Senators who are supporting detained Philippine Senator Leila de Lima.
In his statement, Go said that he is “interested in meeting US senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy who introduced a US entry ban against Filipino officials involved in Senator Leila de Lima’s detention.”
This was after the Palace said that they will persuade President Rodrigo Duterte to visit America in March to attend the United States and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.
Go lambasted anew the US senators for “intervening” in the Philippine judicial system and local affairs without getting the entire background of De Lima’s detention.
“They should verify if there was really persecution that was made. It’s not persecution, even a percent, there is no persecution in what the President is doing. He is not known for that. The President is not vindictive,” he said.
“What we have here is prosecution that was upheld by the Supreme Court. That is why I said, ‘you come here, you research more. Don’t believe in intrigues, in hearsay. Not our style,’” the senator added.
Go felt for Senator Ronald De la Rosa who revealed the cancellation of his US visa Thursday. He said he wanted to know the reason behind the cancellation.
While he understands that the issuance of visa is a privilege and a sovereign right of the issuing country, he said he is still puzzled on the reason behind the revocation of De la Rosa’s entry pass to the US.
“For me, if I may only, can I ask why? What is the reason behind?” the neophyte senator asked.
He said that he can “only infer” that this is in accordance with the recently-signed US 2020 budget which includes a provision that bans any official who is involved in the detention of administration’s staunch critic, Sen. De Lima.
As far as Malacañang is concerned, the cancellation of the United States visa of Sen. De la Rosa is a non-issue.
In a press briefing at the Palace on Thursday, Chief presidential legal Counsel and Spokesman Salvador Panelo said it is the prerogative and right of any state to disallow or to allow any citizen of any country entry.
Panelo also said that they are okay with the matter considering that Sen. De la Rosa can still re-apply for a new visa.
“I don’t know what reason it was cancelled. Did the US state any reason for the cancellation? But I understand according to Senator De la Rosa, the embassy told him, if he wants to renew he can apply,” Panelo said.
When asked if it has anything to do with the Magnitsky Act which bans the entry of Philippine officials linked to the detention of opposition Sen. De Lima and alleged extra-judicial killings (EJKs) committed under the Duterte administration, Panelo said he has no idea about it.
To recall, De Lima was detained in 2017 for allegedly receiving drug money from convicted criminals during her time as Secretary of Justice.
The senator, who is a fierce critic of the administration, denied such allegations and accused the government of political persecution.
Go confirmed that US President Donald Trump really wanted Duterte to grace the summit and visit the US despite the Philippine president’s previous pronouncements that he does not intend to visit the US.
“As far as I know, he was invited and there is an ASEAN Summit that will be held in Las Vegas this March. President Trump really wants to invite President Duterte to attend the ASEAN,” he said.
“It is a long-standing invitation to President Duterte and also there are a lot of Filipinos in America. I don’t know yet what will be the decision of the President or if he will accept it. But from what I know in the past, as a matter of principle, he doesn’t really want to go,” Duterte’s longtime aide added.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. previously announced that ASEAN Foreign Ministers adopted a consensus to hold ASEAN-US Summit with Trump during their meeting in Vietnam over the weekend.
President Trump attended the ASEAN leaders’ summit in Manila last 2017. He, however, did not grace the 2018 and 2019 summits and sent representatives in his stead.
De la Rosa narrated that he was supposed to watch the fight of World Boxing Champion and Senator Manny Pacquiao but he did not push through with his plans as he already heard that the 10-year, multiple entry visa was already canceled.
The neophyte senator, who was the chief architect of Philippine National Police’s (PNP) anti-drug operations “Oplan Tokhang,” said the letter indicated that if he wanted to apply for a new visa, he has to go through the same process again and it will be subject to US laws as well as its rules and regulations.
The former PNP Chief also said that there are no reasons indicated in the letter that confirmed the revocation of his visa but if asked if it may be linked to the alleged EJK in the country, he answered: “most likely.”
De la Rosa admitted that he was hurt by the revocation of his travel access to the US as he helped his counterparts in law enforcement during his time as a policeman.
“We are just humans. I’ve been helping my counterparts from the US government particularly in their enforcement. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), and other agencies of the US. We’ve been working together then this is what they do, they revoke my visa,” he said noting his 34-year working experience with his US counterparts.
He said that he is not planning to apply for another US Visa but if President Rodrigo Duterte will attend the US-ASEAN Summit this March and he will be invited, then he will get a new one.
But Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra however said De la Rosa should try to reapply.
“Llike any other ordinary Filipino Citizen who wants to visit the US, Senator De la Rosa will just have to try and try,” he said.
Trump has signed the 2020 national budget of America which includes an amendment that allows US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to impose sanctions on officials involved in the detention of Sen. de Lima.
It is in compliance with the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act which authorizes the US government to impose sanctions on those who they see as human rights offenders.
The sanctions may pertain to freezing of the classified officials’ assets or a ban from entering the United States.
Another US Senate resolution also called for the ban of De Lima jailers and alleged human rights offenders invoking anew the Magnitsky Act.
with Alvin Murcia@tribunephl_alvi, Francis T. Wakefield