Senators urge PRRD to attend US-ASEAN meeting

MANILA — At least three senators on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte should accept US President Donald Trump’s invitation to attend a special summit between the United States and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) sometime in March.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said the summit is both an opportunity for the President to bolster the country’s standing, as well as for him to clarify the issues raised by some US senators against his administration.

“Being an active and prominent member of the Asean, the Philippines must maintain its status in the international community,” Lacson said in a statement.

“President Duterte’s presence in the US summit can also serve an opportunity to clarify whatever issues are being raised, especially on human rights and the administration’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, as well as the country’s judicial system and due process brought about by the resolution filed by some US senators in relation to the Magnitsky Act,” he added.

Lacson was referring to the US Senate’s action urging Trump to impose Magnitsky sanctions against Philippine officials behind alleged “extrajudicial killings” and in the detention of opposition Senator Leila de Lima.

The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act authorizes the US to impose sanctions — including denying of travel visas and the freezing and forfeiture of US assets — to foreigners proven to have committed human rights violations or acts of significant corruption.

Lacson said President Duterte should dismiss any notion that he might be treated badly in the US because of the US Senate action.

“Since he was officially invited by President Trump, the President will be accorded the necessary diplomatic immunity and courtesy befitting a head of state, so there should be no apprehension on how he will be treated while in the US territory,” Lacson said.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa echoed Lacson’s sentiments, saying “the more friends, the better.”

He pointed out that President Duterte is invited by a Republican US President, “not by those gullible Democrat senators who knew nothing about the real situation in the Philippines.”

“So I think it’s okay. Such an act will show to the whole world that our independent foreign policy is real,” dela Rosa said.

Senator Richard Gordon agreed with his colleagues.

“That is his (Duterte) prerogative. (But) certainly, when a nation, let’s say America, China or Russia invites, you should go,” he said in an ambush interview.

“It’s always good to have to know each other very well. It would be good for the understanding of each other,” Gordon said.  Jose Cielito Reganit /PNA –