MANILA - Sen. Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa may soon face bigger problems than the cancellation of his US visa, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.
The US State Department "exercised its authority to deny visas to persons implicated in gross human rights abuses," and sends the message the the US "won’t do business with government officials implicated in atrocities," according to HRW Asia Advocacy director John Sifton.
"Dela Rosa has been as vociferous in carrying out and defending the ‘drug war’s’ brutality as President Duterte has been in justifying it," Sifton said in a statement.
"Dela Rosa may still have a date with justice. Dela Rosa may soon enough face far bigger problems than trouble with his visa to the United States."
The senator, who spearheaded government's bloody war on drugs during his stint as police chief, said he would not take further action to question the US decision.
"Malungkot s'yempre. Hindi naman ako plastic. Hindi ko na mabibisita ang mga kapatid at pamangkin ko roon," he said.
(Of course I'm sad, I'm not pretending. I won't be able to visit my siblings and nephews and nieces there.)
Dela Rosa earlier said the cancellation might be linked to his supposed involvement in the alleged extrajudicial killings (EJK) under Duterte’s drug war.
“Baka related na diyan [sa EJK],” he said, noting that he first received the tip about his visa before Sen. Manny Pacquiao’s Las Vegas boxing bout in July 2019, long before US senators pushed for a ban against officials behind the detention of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima.
Sifton said the US government's next step should be extending the same policy to all Philippine officials "implicated in mass killings associated with the drug war."
"The Duterte government has shown it is incapable of carrying out appropriate investigations into killings, but the International Criminal Court (ICC) still can," he said.
Duterte is facing "crimes against humanity" complaints at the ICC for alleged extrajudicial killings under his administration as Davao mayor and as the Philippines' chief executive.
He has insisted that the ICC has no jurisdiction over him and unilaterally withdrew the country from the international body after it launched a preliminary investigation into his war on drugs.