Philippines officials involved in the country’s bloody drug war and a subsequent crackdown on opposition are finally facing official condemnation and repercussions from the United States. The drug war—including extrajudicial killings of people suspected to use or sell drugs by both law enforcement and vigilantes—was estimated by the country’s Human Rights Commission to have caused as many as 27,000 deaths by December 2018. It began in 2016.
On January 8, the US Senate agreed to a resolution that condemns, among other things, the state-sanctioned killings and the detention of Philippines Senator Leila De Lima, a prominent critic of the drug war. The resolution also called on President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on implicated security forces and government officials. A few weeks prior, Trump had signed a spending bill that banned officials “involved in the wrongful imprisonment” of De Lima from entering the US.
Among the Philippines officials who have now been denied US visas is Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, dubbed the “architect” of the violent crackdown led by President Rodrigo Duterte. On January 22, Dela Rosa told reporters that he believes the denial of his visa is because of his involvement in extrajudicial killings, rather than the detainment of De Lima.
It seems as though he was anticipating this. Dela Rosa missed a July 2019 boxing match in Las Vegas “because I might just be barred and be embarrassed. I had been hearing rumors even prior to the fight,” he told reporters in December, just a week before Trump signed the bill blocking his colleagues.