Human rights still sore point in PH-EU ties
Human rights protection has remained a sore point between the Philippines and the European Union (EU) in the recently concluded 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Manila.
Facing the press after glitzy closing ceremonies, President Duterte on Tuesday night said he raised the issue of extrajudicial killings with the EU, which called for stronger relations with the Asean based on democracy, human rights and rule of law. He vowed to reject any EU aid that would allow it to interfere in domestic matters.
“I was the one who injected the topic. He was not at all interested,” Mr. Duterte said in an apparent reference to European Council President Donald Tusk.
“There were a lot of TV. The TV was working there. He did not…I, in my intervention and in my — I inserted the matter of extrajudicial killing,” Mr. Duterte said.
“And I said, whatever happened? You thought it’s about democracy, now your hearts bleed for the criminals?” he added.
Mr. Duterte then launched into an explanation of his war on drugs, saying the people killed were the ones who fought it out with authorities.
Many use “shabu” or crystal meth, which affects their brain, he said.
The President had vented his ire on the EU in the past months, accusing it of meddling in the country’s affairs for expressing concern about the thousands of killings that had marked his war on drugs.
“Forget it. We will survive even if we have to eat dried fish and rice. We will survive,” Mr. Duterte said, maintaining his stance vis-à-vis EU aid.
Tusk said EU wanted to enhance its relations with the Asean based on shared values during the summit of the two blocs, chaired by the Philippine leader, earlier on Tuesday.
Tusk expressed EU’s commitment to a “strong and cohesive Asean,” one that develops its own character in the best interest of the region’s prosperity, stability and security.
“Further enhancing our relations based on common interests and shared values of democracy, human rights and rule of law is a priority for the EU. Many of our interests coincide and still many of the challenges we face,” he said.
Mr. Duterte, who said he was pleased to have Tusk at the summit, said the Philippines welcomed cooperation, but would not tolerate interference in its internal affairs, his spokesperson Harry Roque said.
“PRRD reiterated that the Philippines welcomes cooperation under the principle of total respect of sovereignty and noninterference in internal affairs of the state,” Roque said.
Tusk said the EU was working toward a strategic partnership with the Asean, which would encompass more security cooperation, among others.
“The potential for greater engagement is enormous. From trade to climate, from maritime security to counterterrorism. Together, we can make our two regions stronger,” he said.
Both blocs are vital for stability at a time of geopolitical volatility, he said.
“We both believe in rules-based multilateralism as opposed to geopolitical spheres of influences,” he said.
Mr. Duterte, for his part, said the Asean-EU summit was an important milestone in the two organization’s relations.
“The EU occupies a special place in the Asean’s external relations, as it is a natural partner of Asean community-building and integration,” he said.