On Wednesday, Philippines Senator Ronald Dela Rosa confirmed that the US government had revoked his visa to the United States. The former police chief under President Rodrigo Duterte has been implicated in extrajudicial killings associated with the administration’s brutal “war on drugs.” It appears that the State Department was acting under its policy and authority to deny visas to persons implicated in gross human rights violations.
Dela Rosa was the chief of the Philippine National Police when the nationwide “war on drugs” began soon after Duterte took office in June 2016. He presided over forces that routinely shot and killed alleged drug dealers and users, claiming without proof they resisted arrest. Investigations by human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, as well as by the media, have found numerous instances in which the police planted weapons and drugs on victims to cover up summary executions. Dela Rosa has been vociferous in defending the anti-drug campaign, calling it a success.
The Philippines Commission on Human Rights estimates that more than 27,000 have died in the “drug war,” but the number grows daily as killings extend from Manila to other urban areas.
The US action represents a shift in policy towards the Philippines government and its “drug war,” and suggests that the US will no longer do business with government officials directly implicated in atrocities.
As its next step, the US government should make clear publicly that this policy extends to all Philippine government officials linked to the “drug war.” It’s important these officials get the message that their complicity in Duterte’s crimes will make them persona non grata in the US – and perhaps, elsewhere in the world.
Dela Rosa could have a date with justice before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Despite Duterte’s efforts to withdraw the Philippines from the court’s jurisdiction, the court retains legal authority under its statute and is conducting a preliminary examination into killings during the anti-drug campaign, including while Dela Rosa was police chief. If that examination results in an investigation, Dela Rosa may face far bigger problems than trouble with his visa to the United States.