Palace: No expulsion of EU envoys
There are no plans to expel ambassadors from European Union (EU) members, according to presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, clarifying that President Duterte’s tirades against the European Union this week were meant for a foreign delegation that included several European parliamentarians who had expressed concerns about human rights violations in the Philippines’ war on drugs.
“There is no directive to do that,” Abella told reporters on Friday, adding that Mr. Duterte’s statements were “being clarified directly to persons concerned.”
The President on Thursday blasted the European Union for supposedly calling for the Philippines’ ouster from the United Nations and told it not to interfere in the country’s domestic affairs.
The President also said he could cut diplomatic ties with EU members and their ambassadors would have to leave the country in 24 hours.
“You think we are a bunch of morons here? You are the one. Now the ambassadors of those countries listening now, tell me, because we can have the diplomatic channel cut tomorrow. You leave my country in 24 hours, all, all of you,” Duterte said in his speech at the relaunching of the Malacañang press briefing room.
An international human rights group and a mission of international parliamentarians and civil society leaders on Monday warned that the Philippines faced UN and EU sanctions if the government failed to stop the killing of drug suspects and allow an independent investigation of the war on drugs.
The delegation included seven members of the Progressive Alliance and the Party of European Socialists.
On Wednesday, the Inquirer published a statement by former Senate President Edgardo Angara, the President’s special envoy to the European Union, disputing the statement of the delegation as a “gross misrepresentation,” adding they do not represent the governing majority in the EU Parliament.
The next day the Inquirer also quoted the European Union saying the delegation’s statements “were made solely on behalf of the Progressive Alliance and do not reflect the position of the European Union.”
The EU statement further said: “The European Union had no involvement whatsoever in the visit of the seven-member delegation of the International Delegates of the Progressive Alliance which took place on Oct. 8 to 9 in Manila.”
In explaining the President’s statements, Abella said Mr. Duterte just reacted to what he had read.
“So, the President reacted as any leader would when national sovereignty is violated. So, we call upon also for the media to heed his request, too, for correct reportage,” he said.
The seven-member mission, however, did not call for the expulsion of the Philippines from the United Nations. What the delegation members said was the Philippines could lose a trade deal that allowed its products duty-free access to the European Union if it failed to stop the killings and the “political persecution” of the President’s critics.
It was the New York-based Human Rights Watch that had warned of the Philippines’ possible loss of membership, not in the United Nations but in its rights body, if the government continued to refuse to allow an independent investigation of killings in the country.
Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said Mr. Duterte’s rant was just “an outburst” that should be taken “in context.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) kept mum on a possible diplomatic flap with the European Union and its member-states as a result of the President’s outburst.
Refer to Abella’s statements
“Kindly refer to Abella’s statements on the issue,” DFA spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said in a brief reply to an Inquirer query on the matter.
Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said the European Union actually wanted to help the Philippines fight drugs and was collaborative instead of critical toward the country.
“They were not the lecturing type,” Lopez told reporters. “Their approach is, ‘How can we help?’ not, ‘Why are you doing this?’”
“They were actually saying, ‘Tell us how we can help.’ That was what they were saying as we were describing the anti-illegal drug campaign, for example, and all these issues,” he said. “After we’ve explained, given them the correct set of numbers, they’re telling us, ‘How can we help?’”
He said he and Angara had told the EU officials that they appreciated the offer.
The Progressive Alliance that sent a delegation to Manila early this week is an international network of about 130 social democratic and socialist parties and groups, including trade unions and youth organizations, that promote justice, freedom and solidarity around the world.
According to its website, the Party of European Socialists includes socialist, social democratic, labor and democratic parties from the European Union and Norway that fight for a “better and more progressive Europe.” It has 33 full members, 13 associate and 12 observer parties.
The delegation that visited Manila included Konstantin Woinoff (coordinator, Progressive Alliance), Giacomo Filibeck (deputy secretary general, Party of European Socialists), Emilia Töyrä (member of parliament, Sweden), Thomas O. Melia (deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy and human rights in the Barack Obama administration), Arne Lietz (member of European Parliament, S&D Group), Conny Reuter (secretary general, Solidar) and Ben Maxfield (Australian Labor Party).
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.