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EU summons PH envoy to explain Duterte tirade

/ 12:07 AM March 29, 2017
drug war

DRUG WAR VICTIM. Masked gunmen killed this drug suspect, known only as Melvin, in front of Virgo Club on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City, early this month. —RICHARD A. REYES

The European Union (EU) on Monday summoned a Philippine envoy to explain an expletive-laden tirade by President Duterte, who threatened to hang EU officials for opposing his brutal war on drugs and efforts to reimpose the death penalty.

The EU external action service, the equivalent of a foreign office, said it haled Philippine Chargé d’Affaires Alan Daniega to its Brussels headquarters to provide “an explanation for the recent, unacceptable comments of President Duterte.”

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The move highlights growing EU exasperation with Mr. Duterte.

On March 16, the European Parliament adopted a resolution urging the Duterte administration to put an end to extrajudicial killings in its war on drugs and to “prioritize” the fight against drug trafficking networks and drug barons over tracking down small-scale consumers.

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Release De Lima

The EU lawmakers also called for the immediate release from detention of Sen. Leila de Lima, citing concerns that the drug charges that had been brought against the highest-profile critic of Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs were “almost entirely fabricated.”

Noting that Amnesty International “regards Senator De Lima as a prisoner of conscience,” lawmakers urged the dropping of all “politically motivated charges” against her.

More than 8,000 drug suspects have been killed by police and unknown assailants since Mr. Duterte launched his war on drugs after taking office in June last year.

In its resolution, the European Parliament expressed grave concern over “credible reports” that the Philippine National Police was “falsifying evidence to justify extrajudicial killings” and that “overwhelmingly the urban poor are those being targeted” in Mr. Duterte’s campaign against drugs.

‘Idiotic exercise’

Mr. Duterte responded angrily on Friday, calling the European lawmakers “crazies.”

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“If I have the preference, I’ll hang all of you. You are putting us down,” Mr. Duterte said.

The President also lashed out at the European Union for proposing a “health-based solution” to the drug problem that involved dispensing crystal meth, locally known as “shabu,” cocaine or heroin.

He called the supposed EU proposal a “government-sponsored idiotic exercise.”

“The sons of bitches, they want us to build clinics, then we should, instead of arresting or putting them in prison like in other countries, you go there and if you want shabu they will inject you or give you shabu,” he said in a speech to Chinese-Filipino businessmen.

“Then if you want cocaine, they will give you cocaine and if they want heroin, they will give you heroin,” he added.

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No such proposal

The European Union issued a statement on Monday denying Mr. Duterte’s allegations.

In the statement, the EU delegation to the Philippines said it had not “suggested, discussed, proposed or considered the use of any substitution drugs when treating addiction to methamphetamine … or any other drug addiction in the Philippines.”

The statement did not mention Mr. Duterte by name.

The European Union said that in cooperation with the World Health Organization and experts, it was working with Manila’s Department of Health and the government’s main antidrug agency and selected villages to implement a program that “aims to support recovery from addiction, while keeping families together and facilitating development of social and job skills.”

The voluntary program plans to develop “recovery clinics and recovery homes,” where patients can receive better care, education and counseling without prescribing medication and ensuring confidentiality.

Livelihood skills will be taught, the European Union said.

It is unclear where Mr. Duterte got his information.

One country proposed it

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella on Tuesday said the European Union had not offered the program mentioned by Mr. Duterte.

A European country did, he said, but he did not name the country.

Abella said the Philippines had rejected the proposal.

He also explained that Mr. Duterte’s tirade against the EU lawmakers was intended to tell them to leave the Philippines alone to deal with its own affairs.

Abella said Mr. Duterte’s remarks were in the “context of noninterference with national sovereign affairs.”

“[H]e said he felt they were infringing on our national sovereignty to be able to deal with our situation,” Abella told a news briefing in Malacañang.

He said Mr. Duterte’s threat to hang the EU lawmakers was not meant to be taken literally.

Abella described relations between the Philippines and the European Union as “quite excellent.”

Except for the European Parliament resolution, things are going well, he said.

Abella said the European lawmakers should be more circumspect about their statements and ground their pronouncements and decisions on “fact-based evidence.”

De Lima, he added, is facing criminal, not political, charges.

‘Verbal representation’

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) played down the EU summons.

Charles Jose, spokesperson for the DFA, said Daniega was summoned to Brussels for discussions on “issues of mutual concern to Philippines-EU relations.”

“In that meeting, Embassy officials took the opportunity to inform the EU of developments in the Philippines,” Jose said in a text message.

Instead of sending a note verbale—an unsigned communication written in the third person—or a diplomatic protest over Mr. Duterte’s tirade, the European Union used “a verbal representation,” he added. —WITH REPORTS FROM JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE AND AP

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TAGS: Alan Daniego, drug killings, European Union, extrajudicial killings, Leila de Lima, Rodrigo Duterte, war on drugs
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