US trip for Duterte? Envoy says yes; Palace, no
After swearing two years ago that he would never step foot on “lousy” America, President Duterte has reportedly accepted US President Donald Trump’s invitation to visit Washington.
“So far, there’s no definite date, but I know that he’s going,” Ambassador to the United States Jose Romualdez told reporters during the independence day reception hosted by the US Embassy on Wednesday.
“He indicated that he would like to go, but it’s just a question of timing,” Romualdez said.
With the schedule being worked out, Duterte’s likely controversial visit will “definitely” push through, according to the envoy.
Malacañang, however, said there were no arrangements yet if the President would indeed go on an official trip to the United States, even if Romualdez’s remark sounded definite about Mr. Duterte’s visit.
“If I ask him about it, he doesn’t want to,” said presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo when asked if the President was open to visiting Washington.
But Panelo noted that certain “circumstances” might make him change his mind.
Human rights record
Trump has asked Duterte to visit Washington several times in the past, and even sent a formal letter of invitation to the Philippine leader.
On July 21, 2017, Duterte declared that he had no plans to go to the United States after an American congressman said he should not be welcomed to the White House due to his lack of regard for human rights in his brutal antinarcotics campaign.
“So what makes that guy think that I’m going to America?” Duterte had said.
“There will never be a time during my administration that I’ll be going to America or thereafter. I’m done with that. I’ve seen America and it’s lousy.”
The Palace, for its part, said Duterte could not bear the cold weather and the long-haul flight to the country.
Early into his administration, the President had lashed out at the United States, as well as the European Union and the United Nations, for criticizing his war on drugs that unleashed a spate of extrajudicial killings and other abuses.
When the historic Bells of Balangiga arrived in the country on Dec. 11, 2018, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said their return might finally convince the President to visit the country’s only military ally.
Duterte had demanded that the United States return the three Balangiga bells, which were taken as war trophies during the Philippine-American War.
In 1901, Filipino guerrillas used the church bells to signal the ambush that killed 48 US soldiers stationed in the town of Balangiga, Eastern Samar.
In what has become known as the Balangiga Massacre, US forces retaliated by razing the entire town and killing thousands of Filipinos before taking the Balangiga bells.
Duterte’s visit to the United States, should it materialize, would highlight his friendly relationship with Trump in contrast to former US President Barack Obama.
The President has repeatedly cursed Obama for criticizing his war against illegal drugs.
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