Updated: Jan 24
Duterte threatens to terminate VFA if US does not reverse cancellation of Dela Rosa’s visa
President Rodrigo Duterte threatened Thursday night that he will terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States if Washington does not reverse its cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa.
Duterte said in a speech before former communist rebels that he is giving the US government a month to “correct” the cancellation of Dela Rosa’s visa.
“No more bases. They have to start to talk to us because they have to go,” he said.
Dela Rosa confirmed Wednesday that he is no longer allowed to travel to the US for now since his visa has been cancelled. He told Senate reporters that the US Embassy told him on January 20, a day before his birthday, that his visa had been invalidated.
Details surrounding the revocation – including when it became effective and why it was implemented – remain unclear to Dela Rosa.
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But he acknowledged it "might be related" to alleged extrajudicial killings under his watch as chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) from 2016 to 2018.
Reports in December 2019 said the US canceled Dela Rosa's visa in line with the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, an American law passed in 2018 that imposes financial penalties and visa ban sanctions on foreign individuals and entities involved in violations of human rights or religious freedoms, and censorship activities.
This measure specifically states that no fund should be given as counternarcotics assistance for the PNP unless the Secretary of State reports to the US Congress that the Philippine government has adopted an anti-drug campaign that is consistent with international human rights standards. Among the actions being asked of the Philippine government is the prosecution of individuals involved in alleged extrajudicial killings.
Dela Rosa is certain the travel restrictions against him are not related to the ban on Philippine government officials behind the highly contested detention of Senator Leila de Lima. He said the cancellation of his visa most likely happened before the ban was approved along with the entire 2020 budget of the US on December 20, 2019. Reports on Dela Rosa's voided visa surfaced earlier that month.
Dela Rosa on December 14 last year admitted to CNN Philippines he had been avoiding visiting the US for fear of being denied entry, causing him to miss his colleague and boxing legend Manny Pacquiao's win against Keith Thurman, Jr. in Las Vegas, Nevada, in July.