By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Saturday defended Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa amid reports that the latter’s United States visa was cancelled over the alleged extrajudicial killings (EJKs) during the Duterte administration’s war against illegal drugs.
A report by news blogsite Politiko on Friday said Dela Rosa’s US visa was cancelled as part of the country’s crackdown on alleged human rights violators on the basis of a law promoting human rights and rule of law.
Dela Rosa was reportedly banned in the US since May for his supposed involvement in the alleged EJKs when he was implementing President Duterte’s campaign versus illegal drugs as Philippine National Police chief.
According to Dela Rosa, US authorities have yet to confirm the cancellation of his visa.
“I am not sure because I havent received any official commo (communication) coming from US authorities. Maybe to confirm it is for me to travel to the US once again and find out if I would be denied entry. You wanna come with me?” he said in a text message sent by his office to the Manila Bulletin Saturday afternoon.
But if the report was true, Sotto said the revocation of the former police chief’s visa was unfair since US officials supposedly failed to verify the accuracy of number of deaths attributed to the drug war.
“Hindi maganda kung totoo ‘yon kasi hindi naman nila alam kung totoo yong EJK eh. Ano naman ang kinalaman ni Bato sa EJK? Eh, pag-aralan muna nila (It is improper of the US to cancel his visa, if that is true, because they do not even know if EJKs are true. What does Bato have to do with EJKs? They should study this first),” Sotto said in an interview over radio DWIZ Saturday afternoon.
“Hindi naman totoo ‘yon, eh. Alamin muna nila [kung] ilan,” he added.
The Senate chief, who has vocally supported Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, said Dela Rosa or the government should not be blamed for the deaths of the alleged drug pushers and users as he believed that drug syndicates were behind these.
“Iyong nga drug lords, drug pushers, sila sila nagpapatayan, lalo na ‘yong mga street pushers, tinitira nila dahil patay siguro sila habang nagsusurender sila. (Drug lords, drug pushers are killing each other, especially street pushers who might name them in surrendering to the government),” he said, referring to the PNP’s Oplan Tokhang initiated by Dela Rosa.
“Hindi nila alam ‘yong statistics, naniniwala agad sila agad sila sa kwentong pochero. 20,000 ang napatay sa EJKs, akin na mga pangalan, sige, susuportahan ko kayo 100 percent, kapag napakita mo sa akin ‘yon (They do not know about the statistics and easily believed rumors about the anti-drug campaign. They say 20,000 were EJKs, okay then, give me their names and I will support you 100 percent. If you were able to show me those)” he dared US officials.
In jest, Sotto said, Europe, anyway, is more beautiful than the US for him.
“Mas maganda ang Europe,” he said.
Sotto said Dela Rosa might fly to Australia in January to represent him following an invitation of the Australian Parliament in Canberra.
“Sabihin mo kay Bato maganda ang Australia (Tell Dela Rosa Australia is also a beautiful country),” he also said.