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Philippines ambassador to US: Interference a bane to ties
Romualdez said a few misguided individuals were advocating intervention to oust President Duterte, similar to the EDSA People Power revolution.

Philippines ambassador to US: Interference a bane to ties

Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - October 2, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has branded as “unacceptable” and a form of interference in the country’s domestic affairs a proposed US travel ban on officials deemed responsible for the detention of Sen. Leila de Lima.

Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez issued the statement in reaction to a US Senate panel’s approval of a resolution denying entry to any Philippine official involved in De Lima’s detention. The senator has been under detention since 2017 on alleged involvement in drug activities.

Romualdez said a few misguided individuals were advocating intervention to oust President Duterte, similar to the EDSA People Power revolution.

“Perhaps the removal of Ferdinand Marcos was justified then – but not this time. Those advocates of regime change through unconstitutional means are gravely mistaken because times have changed and relationships have changed,” Romualdez said.

“Certainly, we do not want to be another Venezuela where foreign intervention from both the United States and Russia has brought the country to economic ruin,” he said.

He said it was “unfortunate” that US Sens. Patrick Leahy and Richard Durbin proposed an amendment to the 2020 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill in a bid to bar certain Philippine officials from entering the US.

The proposed amendment, approved at the committee level, should take into consideration the Philippines having its own judicial procedures. He said due process has been observed in the detained senator’s case.

“The statement of Senator Leahy practically saying that the US has a right to interfere because of the ‘amounts of aid to the Philippines’ is simply unacceptable, which triggered anger among many Filipinos including many of our senators – and rightly so,” Romualdez said.

“These actions are plain and simple intervention as these seek to interfere in our country’s internal affairs and influence how we handle domestic issues internal to us,” he added.

Romualdez maintained that Duterte has opted to pursue an “independent” foreign policy and enhance its relations with China and Russia “because these countries recognize and respect our sovereignty and will not intervene in domestic issues, and most likely will not throw back at our faces the aid or help they give.”

The ambassador emphasized that the alleged interference of Russia in the 2016 US presidential election has become one of the most contentious issues in the US today.

“Clearly, a majority of US legislators know better than to interfere in the domestic issues of other nations, especially an ally like the Philippines,” Romualdez said.

“We welcome friendly advice and are happy to answer any official inquiry made by our long-time ally and friend – the United States,” he added.

According to Romualdez, 12 US senators wrote to Duterte last February to ask him to “drop the charges” against Maria Ressa and “immediately release” De Lima. Only four of the original 12 senators filed a resolution on the ban.

“We have continually made it clear that we are in Washington, D.C. not to beg, borrow or ask for aid. Instead, we are extending our hand in friendship to demonstrate the importance we place on our relationship based on mutual respect and shared interests, expecting our sovereignty to be recognized and respected,” he said.

The ambassador emphasized that the Philippines continues to engage with US senators and congressmen to assure them that the country values its friendship with the US.

“Congressional and staff delegations are likewise welcome in the Philippines to see for themselves the real Filipino sentiment,” he said.

JOSE MANUEL ROMUALDEZ
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