MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will decline any invitation to visit the White House, the presidential palace in Manila announced on Friday.
“If I remember correctly, he (Duterte) said he would respond to the letter (of) invitation and decline it,” the president’s spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, said at a press briefing.
US President Donald Trump signed the US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act on August 2. The act contains a provision that could result in a ban on Philippine government officials involved in the imprisonment of opposition Senator Leila de Lima entering the US. Panelo insisted Duterte’s refusal to visit the US is not linked to the act.
“Repeatedly, many times, every time we talk that’s what he says,” Panelo said. “From the very beginning, even during the campaign, he already said that.”
Trump first invited Duterte to the White House during a phone call between the two leaders in 2017. But after a US lawmaker condemned his controversial war on drugs, the Philippine leader rejected the invitation and vowed never to visit “lousy” America.
Meanwhile, Panelo also announced that Duterte had issued a directive that the two American senators who pushed the provision to deny Filipino officials involved in the imprisonment of de Lima entry to the US would not be allowed to enter the Philippines.
“The Philippines is immediately ordering the Bureau of Immigration to deny US Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy — the imperious, uninformed and gullible American legislators who introduced the subject provision in the 2020 budget — entry to the Philippines,” Panelo said.
He also said claims that de Lima was wrongfully imprisoned — and any travel restrictions resulting from those claims — made no sense, as the Filipino senator is currently “detained pending trial.”
De Lima — a vocal critic of Duterte and his war on drugs —has been detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters, Camp Crame, since 2017 on drug charges, which she has vehemently denied.