Palace slams European Parliament resolution against PH drug war

Published April 20, 2018, 3:37 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos and Roy Mabasa

Malacañang has slammed the European Parliament for issuing a resolution to temporarily withdraw the Philippines’ GSP+ preferences if the country fails to end the drug war.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque speaks during a press briefing at the New Executive Building in Malacanang, Friday. (CAMILLE ANTE / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque speaks during a press briefing at the New Executive Building in Malacanang, Friday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement following the issuance of the said resolution calling for an end to the drug war, the release of Senator Leila de Lima, and the removal of human rights defenders from the petition which seeks to declare more than 600 individuals as terrorists.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the European Union (EU) Parliament has “crossed the red line” with its “unwarranted and uncalled for actions” against the Philippines that already constitutes interference in the country’s internal affairs.

Roque, in a press briefing in Malacañang, said it was unfortunate that the European Parliament once again decided to interfere in the affairs of the Philippines.

“We of course find it unfortunate that members of the European Parliament once again interfered with the affairs of the Philippine state, rehashing issues and claims that have been explained adequately by the Philippine government in several official statements,” Roque said.

Roque also questioned the claim of the members of the European Parliament that 12,000 individuals have died in Duterte’s bloody drug war.

“We reiterate that the government under the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte does not engage in so-called extrajudicial killings. They said 12,000 died. Where are the bodies? And where are the charges filed for these deaths?” Roque asked.

“We only know of a few of these cases. And of course, we challenge them – where are the data and evidence which show that there 12,000 deaths?” he asked.

The Palace official also said that President Duterte does not tolerate unlawful deaths, citing the filing of charges against policemen who killed teenager Kian delos Santos in the guise of a drug operation.

“Impunity does not have a place in our society and we continue to follow due process and hold officers accountable for their actions,” Roque said.

“We do not tolerate these deaths. Our institutions are working to implement the laws against killings,” he added.

In its resolution, the members of the European Parliament reminded Philippine authorities of their obligations under international law, notably with regards to human rights. They say failure to comply may result in consequences.

“[The Parliament] encourages the EU and its member-states to consider calling for the Republic of the Philippines to be removed from the United Nations Human Rights Council before its current membership term expires at the end of 2018,” the resolution read.

“[The Parliament] reminds the authorities of the Philippines… to persuade the Philippines to put an end to extrajudicial killings related to the anti-drug campaign and, in the absence of substantive improvements, to initiate the procedural steps which could lead to the temporary withdrawal of the GSP+ preferences,” it furthered.

The GSP+ is the full removal of tariffs on two thirds of all product categories. It is a component of the EU’s GSP which allows developing countries to pay less or no duties on their exports to the EU.

The Philippines was granted beneficiary country status under the GSP+ in 2014, allowing the country to export products duty-free to the EU market.

Roque said the removal of the Philippines from the United Nations Human Rights Council is not a decision to be made by the European Parliament.

“The members of the UN Human Rights Council are elected by the general assembly. That’s a call to be made by the general assembly,” Roque said.

Roque said he finds the resolution of the European Parliament inconsistent, saying that the EU itself has extended assistance to the Philippines’ drug war.

“This resolution comes at a time when the European Union itself has given us financial assistance to assist us in the ongoing war against drugs. I find it inconsistent that the European Parliament will condemn the war against drugs which is now being financed, partly, by the European Union,” Roque said.

Roque then urged the members of the European Parliament to exercise prudence in issuing resolutions. He also claimed that some members have “have close ties with the local political opposition who try to distort realities that we have a working democracy where people now enjoy peace and order.”

“We thank them for helping us, for funding the drug war. Maybe, we will accept more help but what is unacceptable is them criticizing the drug war when it is the duty of the state to fight for the citizens’ right to live,” he said.

Roque, however, clarified that the Philippines has no problem with the EU, itself, but urged EU to communicate with the European Parliament.

“So I’d rather that you ask them what is the impact of this [resolution], given the position of the European Union is that they have even given financial support to the war against drugs,” he added.

Last month, Malacañang welcomed the offer of the EU to allot €3.8 million or P243.2 million to fund drug rehabilitation centers in the country.

According to Roque, De Lima’s arrest followed strict legal procedures which was even declared legal by the Supreme Court.

He added that the European Parliament should realize that they themselves would cry foul if the Philippines starts meddling with their affairs.

“If this happened in Europe, they will not also tolerate it if the Philippines would tell them to release someone like De Lima if their courts tell them that the arrest was legal,” Roque said.

Meanwhile, Roque said that UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli Corpuz is given due process to prove that she is not a terrorist.

“She should submit evidence that she is not a terrorist and let us let the courts decide,” Roque said.

“It is not for foreign lawmakers to call for her removal because we have our own laws. I think that’s how they do it as well,” he added.