In a May 11, 2022 tweet, (self-described "public educator, academic, columnist, and policy adviser") Richard Javad Heydarian1,2 first asserts that China took the previous Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte "for a ride";

...China offered him billions of dollars, offered him concessions in the South China Sea where the two have maritime disputes. Guess what Christian (Amanpour), forget about debt-trap, this was "pledge trap".

and goes on to elaborate.

Later in the few minute clip, he discusses issues related to the future relationship between a (new) president Marcos (at the time Marcos had not yet won) and the US's Biden administration. But then there was this:

...and we know the Marcos' are quite notorious in America, they have a lot of court cases there. There are even suggestions that Marcos may have problems visiting America because of those court cases etcetera...

Question: Why might Philippine president Bongbong Marcos have problems visiting the US because of "court cases" there? What court cases might pose the greatest challenges to a Marcos visit to the US?

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    It's probably referring to civil cases against Marcos reuters.com/article/… Althogh I'm not quite sure how those would have prevented him from visiting, unless the gov't put him on some sanctions list. OTOH it looks like there are some contempt of court issues too rappler.com/nation/… which might be a problem in some US jurisdictions.
    – Fizz
    Aug 5, 2022 at 3:07
  • It's not clear if "problems visiting" means that he wouldn't be allowed in, that he would be sued if he got in, or he would otherwise get a bad reception (e.g. protests or even threats against his life relating to the court cases). Heads of state normally enjoy some immunity from prosecution though. But without elaboration from Heydarian it is hard to be sure what he meant.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 5, 2022 at 9:10

1 Answer 1


What court cases might pose the greatest challenges to a Marcos visit to the US?

Most people who would avoid the US because of court cases are seeking to avoid submitting themselves to the jurisdiction of the court, or perhaps they are worried about being found inadmissible because of their alleged misdeeds. Neither concern applies to a head of state, however, because heads of state are immune from the jurisdiction of the courts and from most grounds of inadmissibility.

On the other hand, a head of state, like a diplomat, requires special permission from the department of state to travel to the US. Unlike a regular visa, which can be refused for any of several reasons that are defined in US immigration law, permission for a diplomatic or state visit may be withheld for any reason or for no reason at all. Whether a pending civil action (or criminal) can prevent a head of state or diplomat from traveling to the US is entirely a political and diplomatic question between the two countries concerned, typically handled by their foreign ministries. If they agree that a state visit should happen, it will happen. If not, it won't.

In this case, it is possible that the US Department of State would want to avoid the domestic controversy that would surely accompany a state visit of a head of state with significant legal problems in the US. Allowing him to visit and leave while evading the jurisdiction of a US court would not look good.

However (thanks to Fizz for the link), the State Department has in fact told reporters that Marcos is "welcome."

  • 2
    Regarding the last para, according to Wikipedia, the State Department actually said he's welcome to visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Fizz
    Aug 5, 2022 at 9:34
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    @Fizz she actually spoke more generally: "when you’re a head of state, you have immunity in all circumstances and are welcome to the United States in your official role" Several heads of state are in fact unwelcome because of strained diplomatic relations (or none at all). Given the context of her statement, however, we can conclude that Marcos is not among them.
    – phoog
    Aug 5, 2022 at 9:54
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    There are also complications when it comes to the UN. As the host country, the US has some level of obligation to give visas for UN business. That doesn't mean it can't PNG a murderer, but it also can't say "we're not friends with your country so you can't come."
    – cpast
    Aug 7, 2022 at 1:23
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    @cpast indeed. There's even a special class of transit visa for people whom the US doesn't want to recognize as diplomats but who have business at UN headquarters in New York.
    – phoog
    Aug 7, 2022 at 13:08
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    I just ran across this video from CNN Philippines PH, U.S. working on Marcos-Biden meeting in New York, Washington DC
    – uhoh
    Aug 9, 2022 at 11:02

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