No personal U.S. trips for Cabinet members too, says Panelo
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said on Thursday, January 30, that Cabinet members are also barred from going on personal trips to the United States, in deference to President Rodrigo Duterte's orders.
Panelo made the statement in a Palace news briefing, when asked if the President's ban on US trips for Cabinet members covered non-official trips as well.
"Oo 'wag na muna pumunta doon (Yes, let's not go there for now). We have to defer to the President's wishes," Panelo said.
What ban? Duterte announced on Wednesday night, January 29, that no Cabinet member would be allowed to go to the US "indefinitely," his latest move after threatening to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
The Philippine chief likened the move to a "boycott," his next step in "toning down" bilateral ties with the country's oldest and most powerful ally, after the US government's cancellation of Senator Ronald dela Rosa's visa.
Duterte vowed to "terminate" the Philippines-US VFA unless Washington "corrects" itself and restores Dela Rosa's visa.
He claimed that his decision to terminate the two countries' military pact was also anchored on the US Senate's adoption of a resolution that seeks Global Magnitsky Act sanctions against Philippine officials involved in extrajudicial killings and the detention of Senator Leila de Lima.
Dela Rosa, his first Philippine National Police, is the architect of Duterte's bloody and controversial war on illegal drugs criticized at home and abroad for leading to human rights abuses.
The move to bar Cabinet members from travelling to America, Duterte added, was in line with his desire to "slowly tone down" the Philippines' bilateral relations with the US.
Asked for details on what the President meant by this, Panelo told reporters he would first need to consult Duterte.
Some exceptions: Panelo clarified that Duterte's ban did not cover Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. Locsin was coincidentally in the US when Duterte announced his decision to bar his Cabinet members from going there.
Duterte had long expressed his dislike for the US, pushing for an "independent foreign policy" that has largely been characterized by a pivot from the Philippines' longtime ally to countries like China and Russia.
Then-president Barrack Obama was among the first personalities that he cursed in public speeches for criticizing his war on drugs. – Rappler.com