Dela Rosa confirms his US visa has been canceled

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 22) — Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa on Wednesday confirmed he's no longer allowed to travel to the United States for now since his visa has been canceled.

Dela Rosa said that on January 20, a day before his birthday, he received a response from the US Embassy that his visa had been invalidated.

"Should I want daw to apply for another visa, I may apply, subject to US laws and regulations," Dela Rosa told reporters in a chance interview at the Senate.

Details surrounding the revocation – including when it became effective and why it was implemented – remain unclear for Dela Rosa.

He however, acknowledged it "might be related" to alleged extrajudicial killings under his watch as chief of the Philippine National Police from 2016 to 2018.

Reports in December 2019 said the US canceled Dela Rosa's visa in line with the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, an American law passed in 2018 that imposes financial penalties and visa ban sanctions on foreign individuals and entities involved in violations of human rights or religious freedoms, and censorship activities.

This measure specifically states that no fund should be given as counternarcotics assistance for the Philippine National Police unless the Secretary of State reports to the US Congress that the Philippine government has adopted an anti-drug campaign that is consistent with international human rights standards. Among the actions being asked of the Philippine government is the prosecution of individuals involved in alleged extrajudicial killings.

Dela Rosa is certain the travel restrictions against him are not related to the ban on Philippine government officials behind the highly contested detention of Senator Leila de Lima. He said the cancellation of his visa most likely happened before the ban was approved along with the entire 2020 budget of the US on December 20, 2019. Reports on Dela Rosa's voided visa surfaced earlier that month.

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Dela Rosa on December 14 last year admitted to CNN Philippines he had been avoiding visiting the US for fear of being denied entry, causing him to miss his colleague and boxing legend Manny Pacquiao's win against Keith Thurman, Jr. in Las Vegas, Nevada, in July.

Bato and the drug war

President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Dela Rosa as top cop in 2016, entrusting him to lead the bloody war on drugs. From July 2016 to Dela Rosa's retirement from the police force in April 2018, more than 4,000 suspects were killed in anti-drug operations, government data show. The official death toll is now at around 6,000, but local and international human rights groups said there could be thousands more.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Criminal Court are looking into the country's human rights situation. The ICC targets to complete by next year a preliminary examination to determine if it would investigate the drug war.

American senators have also been pushing for the release of De Lima, prompting them to propose that her accusers should be barred from the entering the US. The US has not released a list of banned Filipino officials but Dela Rosa was PNP chief when De Lima was arrested and detained in 2017 over drug charges, which the opposition insists were all fabricated.

Early this month, the United States' Senate also passed a measure calling on President Donald Trump to deny US entry to and freeze the assets of all Philippine officials involved in drug war killings and De Lima's detention.

Malacañang has repeatedly said there are no state-sanctioned killings, and that De Lima's cases are being tried by the country's independent courts.

CNN Philippines' Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.