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American TNTs in the Philippines?

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Greg B. Macabenta

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UNSPLASH/ELDON VINCE ISIDRO

The term “TNT” refers to Pinoys in the US who are hiding (tago nang tago) from immigration officials because of their illegal status. This year, TNT may also mean US citizens hiding from Philippine immigration officials because they are in the country illegally.

In this regard, US Senators Patrick Leahy and Richard Durbin should not attempt to enter the Philippines at all. President Rodrigo Duterte has reportedly put the two senators on the immigration watch list and they will be turned back and placed on the next flight to the US if they attempt to enter the Philippines.

The two were primarily responsible for inserting a rider in the 2020 national budget that the US Congress recently passed, and which President Donald Trump signed. The rider bans from entering the US those who were involved in the “wrongful imprisonment” of Senator Leila De Lima.

Incensed, Duterte has ordered Leahy and Durbin banned from the Philippines and has threatened to cancel the no-visa travel privilege for US citizens and to require them to secure visas to enter the Philippines.

There is no truth to the rumor that Leahy and Durbin plan to become TNT in the Philippines. However, Duterte’s bright idea will affect Pinoys who have become naturalized US citizens and have not regained or retained Philippine citizenship.

While the US State Department has not yet issued a list of persons to be banned, De Lima appears to have cast a wide net, including Duterte himself.

“My persecution started with a daily public media demolition by none other than [Rodrigo] Duterte, using all his powers as President,” De Lima is quoted in media. “This was followed by a vicious social media campaign conducted by DDS Trolls, led by Duterte sycophants Mocha Uson, Sass Rogando Sasot, and RJ Nieto. Then came the House investigation where criminal convicts were induced to testify against me in exchange for prison privileges and immunity, if not presidential pardon, as led by former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, former DOJ (Department of Justice) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Solicitor General Jose Calida, PAO (Public Attorney’s Office) Chief Persida Acosta, Sandra Cam, Dante Jimenez, Congressmen Rey Umali and Rudy Fariñas.”

Apparently, being banned from entering the US is of great concern for Philippine officials. Aside from missing the attractions of Disneyland and the shopping delights in New York and at Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, there is the problem of being denied access to bank accounts, real estate, and other unexplained assets hidden in the US.

This was worrisome enough for Rep. Rudy Fariñas, resulting in the following headline on GMA News: “Fariñas denies involvement in De Lima’s arrest.”

Fariñas insisted that that he was not involved in De Lima’s arrest, and unjust detention.

“‘I only participated in the congressional inquiry which she snubbed, but didn’t even get arrested for such,’ Fariñas said. ‘We only filed a case for disobedience to a subpoena issued by Congress, for which she has not been imprisoned as such offense is bailable and carries only light penalties.’”

Fariñas’ denial isn’t too convincing. A Rappler story reported: “Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Fariñas, Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro, 1-Ang Edukasyon Representative Salvador Belaro Jr, and Kabayan Representative Harry Roque all asked inane questions that ranged from whether what Dayan and De Lima had was ‘true love’ to when the two entered the ‘climax’ of their relationship.”

Their sexual innuendoes were too orgasmic to be missed.

The folks at my favorite watering hole in Daly City have been quick to address this issue.

“Remember how we had to wake up at dawn to fall in line at the US embassy in Manila to apply for a US visa?” says Pete from behind the bar.

Others quickly join the conversation: “Remember how we had to gather all the documents proving that we had assets in the Philippines and would have no reason to want to remain in the US after our visa had expired?”

“And remember how being denied a visa was like the end of the world for us?”

“Well, the shoe is on the other foot,” concludes George who had experienced a denial by a US consul who, he said, must have gotten out of the wrong side of bed.

George has friends at the Philippine consulate. “I can hardly wait to see them interview visa applicants who want to visit the Philippines. Sana pahirapan din nila (I hope they give them a hard time).”

”You don’t actually believe that the consulate will give them a hard time, do you?,” cuts in Rudy, a travel agent. “As it is, I can’t get enough tourists to visit the Philippines. If the government adds on visa restrictions we might have no tourists at all.”

“Why would anyone want to visit the Philippines in the first place?” asks Doming, who used to live in Smokey Mountain in Tondo.

“To see the sights. To have fun. To enjoy bargains. Great food. Nice beaches. Festivals. Beautiful and hospitable people. Everything that a tourist wants,” says Dinah who works as an assistant of the tourism attaché.

And then Dinah admits: “Sa totoo lang (in truth), we have to work our butts off persuading people to include the Philippines in their travel plans. It’s just as much fun in other destinations and cheaper.”

“Well, I go to the Philippines to visit friends and relatives,” says Paul. “And my wife and I are planning to retire in the province. I can live a comfortable life on my small social security pension.”

“Filipinos have many reasons to visit the Philippines. Even those of us who are already Americans,” agrees Pete. “But if the government makes it difficult for us to go home, maybe we will not be motivated.”

Paul cuts in. “But we will still visit the Philippines, whether Duterte likes it or not. The Philippine consular offices would be stupid to deny visas to people who want to visit the country. And once there, do you think anyone will bother to arrest you for being an illegal alien? There are thousands of Chinese illegals there and the Duterte government is encouraging more. Tayo pa kayang mga dugong Pinoy (What’s more with us of Pinoy blood)?”

“That’s a big joke, isn’t it?” cracks Jimmy while nursing his beer. “Imagine, American TNTs in the Philippines!”

Someone speaks up from one of the tables. It is Ramon, a media man, “But you must admit, the Philippines has a right to require visas of visitors to the country. Did you know that if you are a US citizen, you need a visa to visit Vietnam? But Pinoys don’t need a visa to go there.”

“I understand the reason Duterte dislikes America is because he was denied a visa when he wanted to visit his girlfriend in the US,” Pete says mischievously.

Tsismis lang ’yan (That’s just gossip),” says Rudy with a laugh. “But, the fact is, Philippine officials have more reason to want to come to America. Ask their wives and kids.”

And then Rudy adds, amusedly. “According to a social media post, Mocha Uson, who is an assistant in the Malacañang press office and is included in De Lima’s black list, is not worried about being banned from entering the US. She says she’s only planning to go to California.”

If true, this should come as no surprise. Uson, is said to be geographically impaired. She once insisted that Mayon Volcano is in Naga and not in Albay.

 

Greg B. Macabenta is an advertising and communications man shuttling between San Francisco and Manila and providing unique insights on issues from both perspectives.

gregmacabenta@hotmail.com

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