Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, told reporters Monday that he could not yet accept an invitation from his American counterpart Donald Trump to the White House because he is unsure of whether he has the time to make it.
While he did not reject the invitation, either, he said he was “tied up” and could not “make any definite promise.”
“I’m supposed to go to Russia, I’m also supposed to go to Israel,” Duterte noted.
If Duterte accepts the invitation, it is unclear whether the State Department would grant him a visa to enter the United States. He has joked in the past that he refuses to even try to enter the country because “I will just be insulted there” and “they won’t give me a visa.” In October, he claimed to have once attempted to enter the United States when he was in college and was denied a visa, threatening to impose visa restrictions on U.S. citizens in revenge.
Duterte is facing a case before the International Criminal Court for allegedly using “death squads” to curb drug-fueled violence as mayor of his native Davao City, a position he held for 22 years before assuming the presidency. He has claimed to have personally participated in these death squads, wandering the city at night and shooting people dead.
President Trump invited Duterte to the White House during a telephone conversation this weekend, a move that baffled observers who have noted Duterte’s consistent anti-American rhetoric since taking office in June 2016, as well as his record of supporting extrajudicial killings vigilante justice against drug criminals.
The two world leaders reportedly engaged in a “very friendly conversation” in which Trump offered to host Duterte in the White House.
“President Trump also invited President Duterte to the White House to discuss the importance of the United States-Philippines alliance, which is now heading in a very positive direction,” the White House said in a statement. The statement added that the two “discussed the fact that the Philippine government is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs, a scourge that affects many countries throughout the world.”