President Donald Trump with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte at an ASEAM Summit dinner at the SMX Convention Center last November 12, 2017. | Inquirer.net photo

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to reject United States President Donald Trump’s invitation to attend the Southeast Asian leaders’ summit in Las Vegas, Nevada this March, Malacañang said on Friday, January 24. 

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa cancellation reportedly prompted Duterte to decline the invitation, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced. 

In a chance interview with media, Panelo said, “What [Duterte] said is he’s not going.” 

He added, “(The president rejected the invitation due to) many reasons which I’ve already stated earlier and the other reason was the cancellation of Senator Bato’s visa. That added to the other factors.”

This confirmation comes after Duterte said “no” when asked if he would attend the summit during an interview with Russian international television network RT. He also said that he was previously invited by former President Barack Obama for a state visit to the U.S. 

“I’ve just received an invitation to go to the United States where there will be ASEAN leaders. I haven’t been to the United States. I was invited by Obama, but I didn’t go there,” the Philippine president said, alluding to the former U.S. president’s criticism against his administration’s anti-illegal drugs campaign. 

Panelo previously said Duterte had some reservations about Washington’s offer and whether he would be issued a visa to enter the country. 

“I do not even know if the U.S. will even issue me a visa and if the U.S. will issue me a visa, I do not know if I will be allowed entry,” Panelo quoted Duterte as saying on Thursday.

The Philippine government last month issued an entry ban on U.S. Senators Richard Durbin, Patrick Leahy and Ed Markey for their criticism of the Duterte administration’s human rights record and anti-drug campaign, and the detention of Philippine Senator Leila de Lima.

“He (Duterte) said he has to ponder over it because he doesn’t want to go there and if he’s already there, some U.S. senators might be unhappy seeing him there,” Panelo added.

Now that Duterte’s decision has been made, Panelo said that the chief executive would not allow American lawmakers to “bully” the Philippine government.

“Of course, he doesn’t want it. For one, as we said earlier, the demand of the U.S. senators to release Ms. de Lima is an intrusion into our sovereign rights as a state because they cannot dictate on us or bully us into releasing a citizen of this country who is lawfully detained,” he said. 

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