Panelo to U.S.: State reason for Dela Rosa’s canceled visa ‘out of courtesy’

Sofia Tomacruz
Panelo to U.S.: State reason for Dela Rosa’s canceled visa ‘out of courtesy’
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo says the United States should give an explanation since there should be courtesy 'among allies'

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Tuesday, January 28, insisted the United States government should explain, “out of courtesy,” why it canceled the visa of Philippine Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.

Panelo said that’s the least the US could do since the Duterte government provided a reason when it banned several American senators from entering the Philippines. These American senators had backed sanctions against Philippine officials involved in extrajudicial killings and the detention of Senator Leila de Lima.

“What I’m saying is, we stated why we were banning their senators from coming here as a matter of courtesy and among allies, courtesy also requires – as a matter of courtesy, [dapat] sinabi rin sa sa atin (they should have also told us [why they canceled Dela Rosa’s visa]),” Panelo told reporters in a press conference in Malacañang on Tuesday.

What canceled visa? Dela Rosa, who was President Rodrigo Duterte’s first Philippine National Police chief responsible for implementing his bloody anti-drug campaign, earlier confirmed that his US visa had been canceled.

According to the senator, Washington officials informed him he could apply for another visa if he wished.

The visa cancellation angered Duterte and prompted him to threaten to terminate the two countries’ 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Special treatment? Reporters pointed out the seeming double standard of the Palace in demanding that the US government explain why it canceled Dela Rosa’s visa.

For one, after former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario was denied entry to Hong Kong in June 2019, Panelo claimed the Philippine government could not question the authority or right of a country “to stop or to investigate any guest or visitor who wanted to enter that particular country.”

“That’s their exclusive domain,” Panelo said at the time.

Del Rosario has been critical of Duterte’s foreign policy approach, particularly moves to downplay the Philippines’ victory over China before an arbitral tribunal in 2016.

In addition, when sanctions against Philippine officials involved in De Lima’s detention were included in the US State Department’s 2020 budget, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr said it was the US’ prerogative to deny entry to individuals as it wished.

Despite these, Panelo denied Dela Rosa is getting special treatment. He again drew parallels to how the Philippine government “explained” why it was denying entry to American senators involved in seeking sanctions against Philippine officials.

Panelo went on to say that Dela Rosa’s visa was canceled prior to the approval of sanctions found in the US State Department’s 2020 budget and the US Senate’s approval of a resolution invoking Global Magnitsky Act sanctions.

“It happened prior to the approval of that amendment…. Nauna ‘yung cancellation kay Bato bago nung Senado na-approve (The cancellation of Bato’s visa happened before the US Senate’s approval),” he said.

The cancellation of Dela Rosa’s visa is seen as an effect of the Global Magnitsky Act, which imposes sanctions on human rights violators. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.