President Rodrigo R. Duterte is among the nine state leaders invited to attend the upcoming US – Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Las Vegas on March 14, Malacañang bared on Sunday.
In a press statement, Malacañang said the invitation was extended by US President Donald Trump to Duterte and the other nine leaders of the regional intergovernmental organization.
The invitation was first conveyed during the Asean-US meeting at the Asean Summit and related summits in Bangkok last November.
The US reminded the leaders of the invitation through a letter dated January 9.
In the letter, Trump said the summit will “provide an excellent opportunity for us to broaden and deepen our cooperation on matters of great importance to the nearly one billion people in the United States and ASEAN nations that we have the privilege to represent.”
“The American people and I hope to see you in the United States soon,” it read.
Trump has repeatedly invited Duterte to the US since April 2017.
The two leaders met for the first time during the 31st Asean Summit in Manila in November 2017.
In September 2019, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte and Trump had the same leadership “style”, which is why they share respect for each other.
Should Duterte accept Trump’s invitation, their meeting is expected to reaffirm the longstanding alliance between the Philippines and US.
Panelo said it is still unclear if Duterte accepted Trump’s invitation.
Trump’s invitation to Duterte came despite a recent US legislation banning entry of all Philippine officials linked to the arrest and continued detention of Senator Leila de Lima.
Panelo, however, explained that it is still on the part of the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to determine “whether there is information credible enough to demonstrate a wrongful detention of the senator.”
The travel ban imposed on de Lima’s alleged jailers was part of the amendments to the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Section of the budget program introduced by US Senators Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy before the document was signed by Trump on Dec. 20, 2019.
The section titled “Prohibition on Entry” provides that the US Secretary of State “shall apply sub-section (c) to foreign government officials about whom the Secretary has credible information have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment of… Senator Leila de Lima who are arrested in the Philippines in 2017.”
The subsection (c) referred to is the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of the United States that authorizes the US to sanction foreign government officials deemed as violators of human rights.
Duterte blocked the entry of three US senators — Durbin, Leahy, and Edward Markey — for supporting the entry ban and calling for de Lima’s release.
Panelo said the President arrived at the decision to remind other countries that they cannot dictate upon the Philippines, which is an “independent and sovereign state.”
He has repeatedly denied that de Lima was “wrongfully imprisoned” because she was accorded due process.
Despite efforts of Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel “Babes” Romualdez to justify de Lima’s detention to the US senators, Panelo said the latter refused to listen and were determined to include the provision on the entry ban.
Panelo said he personally reached out to US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim after the senators introduced the provision banning the entry of Filipino officials involved in de Lima’s detention.
De Lima has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center at Camp Crame in Quezon City since February 2017 due to her supposed involvement in the rampant narcotics sale inside the national penitentiary during her stint as justice secretary. PNA.GOV.PH