Also Says Duterte’s Drug War Will See a ‘Sophistication’ Soon
By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said Saturday that Filipinos in the US should actively lobby with Congress and local officials on immigration reforms to ensure protection and intact families. This came as a response to the latest pronouncement of Pres. Trump in his first State of the Union address to cut chain migration and limiting family petitions to spouses and children.
“There is a need to lobby before Congress and your elected officials. The Filipinos here is a potent group. We have to be prepared for it,” he said. The newly appointed Ambassador said that he is set to meet with the Philippine-American Friendship Caucus in order to discuss immigration issues and lobby for immigration reforms. Romualdez opined that it may be best for undocumented Filipinos to voluntarily go home to avoid deportation and the 10-year-ban from coming to the US.
There are approximately 4 million Filipinos living in the US, mostly concentrated in New Jersey and New York in the East Coast and in California and Hawaii in the West Coast.
Romualdez held a luncheon press conference together with Consul General Tess Dizon de Vega on February 3, 2018 at the Philippine Center in time for the 4th General Assembly of the Fil-Am Community. He answered pressing questions from media practitioners in New York and New Jersey, ranging from immigration concerns of Filipinos to the Philippine economy and the continuing drug war.
Romualdez was appointed Ambassador to the US by Pres. Duterte in July 2017 and formally assumed office as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. He will hold office at the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC. A nephew of former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos, he has an extensive background as a media practitioner in Channel 9 and now as columnist for Philippine Star.
On the continued massive killings in the name of the war against illegal drugs, Romualdez said that the public is set to see “in the long run, a sophistication in its implementation.” The Duterte administration has received international attention with the unabated killings of small-time drug pushers and users since he assumed into office in 2016.
Romualdez explained that the president has “stepped back now and gave more authority to the PDEA.” The PDEA or the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency is a composite of the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Customs. “More trainings will be given to the police force, particularly by the US,” he said.
Romualdez candidly said that the problem of drugs is connected to terrorism and (the president) has realized that he cannot completely solve it even after he finishes his term. Duterte had used the illegal drugs campaign in Davao City as a national strategy. As then mayor of Davao, Duterte was seen to have substantially cleaned the city of drug syndicates and improved the economy. According to Romualdez, Duterte realized that the drug situation in the Philippines was really bad when he assumed presidency and that solving it could go beyond his term.
During the same press conference, Romualdez emphasized the rosy picture of the Philippine economy under Duterte and how he has changed the culture of politics. “No one has the monopoly of brand name now. Politics in the Philippines has changed dramatically with Duterte. Unlike before, when (then interior secretary) Mar Roxas at the height of super typhoon Yolanda had said that it was hard to deliver services when the president was Aquino and the Leyte mayor was a Romualdez. There are no more brand names in the Philippines now. Duterte has stopped partisanship of political families,” according to Romualdez.
Romualdez further explained that although he was related to Mrs. Marcos, he has maintained his friendships with everyone, including Pres. Aquino, Vice President Laurel, Pres. Estrada, and now the incumbent president. (Photos by Lambert Parong)