Duterte Orders Cabinet Not to Visit U.S. After Official’s Visa Is Denied

Duterte Orders Cabinet Not to Visit U.S. After Official’s Visa Is Denied


MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has ordered all members of his cabinet not to travel to the United States after Washington blacklisted his former national police chief over the government’s drug war, which has left thousands dead, a top aide said Thursday.

The order comes as Mr. Duterte has ratcheted up his threats against the United States, the Philippines’ longtime military ally, including with warnings of reduced cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries.

“Last night, the president issued a directive for cabinet members not to travel to the U.S.,” Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano told an annual breakfast forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines. “We will abide with the instruction of the president.”

A cabinet meeting has been scheduled for next week to discuss the order, Mr. Ano said.

He said that Mr. Duterte issued the directive after his former national police chief, Senator Ronald dela Rosa, recently learned from the United States State Department that his visa has been revoked.

Mr. dela Rosa said he was not told the reason for the denial, although he suspected that it was because of his part in carrying out the drug war under Mr. Duterte’s direction.

That campaign has resulted in the deaths of nearly 6,000 suspected addicts and drug dealers, and, rights groups say, some innocent civilians.

Mr. dela Rosa subsequently retired, but was among several Duterte allies who won a seat in the Philippine Senate last year.

But Mr. Duterte last year moved to undo a treaty that recognized that court’s jurisdiction, and insisted that he would not be tried by a foreign court. On Thursday, his spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said the president’s order was very clear — for his cabinet to boycott America.

The United States Embassy in Manila has yet to respond to the order.

But Washington has for decades been one of the Philippines’ most reliable partners. The two are bound by a 1951 mutual defense treaty that calls on each to come to the other’s defense in the face of foreign aggression.

And Manila has in recent years received the American military’s help in fighting militants linked to Islamic State. United States troops in 2017 flew drones and helped the Philippine government defeat militants who had taken over the city of Marawi on Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines.

But Mr. Duterte has recently warned the United States that he would abrogate a defense agreement, the Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows for large-scale American military exercises in the Philippines, unless Washington “corrected” its visa denial of Mr. dela Rosa.

“As he said before, the decision of the president to terminate the V.F.A. is a studied decision,” Mr. Panelo said, referring to the agreement.

Renato De Castro, who teaches international relations at the De La Salle University in Manila, said that Mr. Duterte’s threat to reduce bilateral ties with the United States signaled that the country was drifting toward its traditional nemesis, China.

“This is a signal to say that we are basically favoring China,” Mr. De Castro said. “It is the beginning of the unraveling of the Philippine-U.S. security alliance. He is articulating the Chinese position that the U.S. is the troublemaker in the region.”

Since assuming office in 2016, Mr. Duterte has gradually tried to reduce tensions with Beijing. He has not enforced an international ruling that found in favor of Manila in its territorial dispute against Beijing’s vast claims to the disputed South China Sea.

And critics say he has been bending over backward to accommodate the Chinese to gain certain business and investment favors.

When a Filipino boat was rammed last year by a much bigger Chinese vessel in the South China Sea, sending 22 Filipino fishermen overboard, Mr. Duterte made a show of getting angry at first, promising to confront China’s leader, Xi Jinping. But he later conceded that there was nothing he could do about it.



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