Trump invites Duterte to US

Alexis Romero, Edith Regalado - The Philippine Star
Trump invites Duterte to US
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has been invited to visit the United States to attend a summit between the US and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Presidential photo / Joey Dalumpines

MANILA, Philippines — Despite the passage of a United States budget provision banning Philippine officials behind the detention of Sen. Leila de Lima from entering the US, President Duterte was among the Southeast Asian leaders invited by US President Donald Trump to a Las Vegas summit to be held on March 14.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has been invited to visit the United States to attend a summit between the US and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The invitation was extended by US President Donald Trump to the Chief Executive and nine other leaders of the regional intergovernmental organization,” the Malacañang statement read.

Malacañang said the invitation was first conveyed during the ASEAN-US meeting in Bangkok in November.

The US reiterated its invitation to the 10 ASEAN leaders through a letter dated Jan. 9.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said he has no official information on whether Duterte would accept the invitation. Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said officials are still waiting for Duterte’s decision on the matter.

The Palace statement said a meeting between Duterte and Trump is “expected to reaffirm the longstanding alliance between the Philippines and US.”

Duterte has repeatedly said he won’t visit the US because of the critical stance of some American lawmakers toward his controversial war on illegal drugs.

Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama had also criticized Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs, which has so far left more than 5,000 suspects dead.

Last month, Trump signed into law the US’ 2020 budget containing a provision allowing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to prohibit those involved in De Lima’s detention from entering the US.

A provision on “Prohibition on Entry” permits Pompeo to apply subsection (c) to foreign government officials about whom the secretary has “credible information” have been involved in the “wrongful” imprisonment of De Lima.

Subsection (c) refers to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which authorizes the US government to slap sanctions on persons tied to human rights violations, including banning them from the US.

The Duterte administration responded by threatening to require Americans visiting the Philippines to secure visas. The President has also banned US Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy, authors of the amendment, and US Sen. Edward Markey, supporter of the provision, from entering the Philippines.

Malacañang has yet to release Trump’s Jan. 9 letter to ASEAN leaders.

In his first invitation to the Southeast Asian leaders dated Nov. 1, Trump said the summit would provide “an excellent opportunity” to broaden and deepen cooperation between the US and ASEAN on “matters of great importance” to the nearly one billion people in the US and Southeast Asia.

Trump also reiterated that the US remains committed to its strategic partnership with the ASEAN.

“As the ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific makes clear, we share a common vision for the future of this dynamic and diverse region, based upon respect for sovereignty, commitment to good governance and adherence to the rule of law,” the US president said.

In 2017, Trump invited Duterte to visit the US but the Philippine leader, wary of long haul trips and cold weather, rejected the invitation.

‘Dearest wish’

Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has expressed his “dearest wish” to personally meet Duterte.

Maduro, who announced in January 2019 that he was breaking diplomatic relations with the US and gave US diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave Venezuela, expressed his interest in meeting Duterte during the presentation of credentials of Philippine Ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro to Maduro as the non-resident Philippine ambassador to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on Jan. 9.

In October 2016, Duterte announced that he was cutting military and economic ties with the US and was veering toward China, in a dramatic foreign policy shift that his officials said would open more opportunities for the Philippines.

The Philippines and Venezuela, which have enjoyed diplomatic relations for the last 52 years, reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen and expand the existing cooperation and ties between the two countries.

Maduro, who considers the Philippines as an important partner in Southeast Asia, wishes for the Philippines and Venezuela to work in a unified way to continue deepening cooperation in the political, cultural, energy and economic spheres.

For her part, Mauro assured Maduro of the Philippines’ goodwill and best wishes to him and the Venezuelan people.

She extended the expressed hope for Maduro to visit the Philippines in the near future.

Areas of cooperation and mutual interest were discussed when Mauro met with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza last Jan. 15 ahead of her presentation of credentials to Maduro.

The meeting allowed both officials to emphasize the cordial relations that have always existed between the Philippines and Venezuela for the last 52 years.

The ambassador urged Arreaza to resume formal bilateral consultations with the Philippines and reactivate agreements signed years ago.

Arreaza reaffirmed the friendship and respect Venezuela has for the Philippines and expressed his hope for deepening further diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries.

Last Jan. 13, Pompeo announced that “the US sanctioned seven current or former officials of the former Maduro regime involved in attempting to circumvent the Venezuelan National Assembly’s democratic process.”

The US secretary of state said the Maduro-associated individuals attempted to siege the National Assembly palace and hold a non-constitutionally sanctioned election to prevent a majority of legitimate Venezuelan legislators from voting.

The US and many other countries continue to recognize Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of the National Assembly and Interim President of Venezuela. – With Pia Lee-Brago

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