Palace open to cutting ties with Iceland

Published July 15, 2019, 4:31 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos 

Malacañang is open to the suggestion to cut the country’s 20-year diplomatic ties with Iceland if they would only interfere with the affairs of a sovereign state like the Philippines.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement after the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted Iceland’s resolution to probe the human rights situation in the Philippines under the controversial drug war.

The resolution was backed by 17 other countries.

In his Monday press briefing, Panelo said cutting ties with Iceland is an option if it will just interfere with how the government works. But the decision, he said still lies with President Duterte.

“It’s not a bad idea. If they will make declarations that will interfere with our sovereignty and meddle with how we deal with the illegal drugs problem, then maybe we should just cut ties with them,” he said.

“We will allow the President to make a final decision on the matter because he is the chief architect of our foreign policy,” he added.

“What is our relationship with Iceland in the first place? There’s not much. We don’t even have an embassy there, and they don’t have one here,” he said.

“All of that (trade relations and overseas Filipino workers) are taken into consideration. Titignan natin kung (We will see) what is the best interest for the country, we will pursue,” he added.

If Iceland was really concerned about the alleged human rights situation in the country, Panelo said they should have made a formal communication with the government and not craft resolutions in the international arena.

“If a country is seriously concerned about human rights violations in the country, what they should do is formally communicate with us,” Panelo said.

“Wala namang sulat na binigay sa atin, pormal na pagtatanong, halimbawa kung ano ang gusto nilang malaman sa ating pamahalaan na hindi natin sinasagot, eh (They did not give us a formal letter detailing what they wanted to know from us. There is nothing about the government that we do not answer),” he added.

“But they are not doing that. They allow themselves to be fed with lies and then make a judgment that the government is behind the so-called extrajudicial killings,” he continued.

Panelo said government will only respond to letters if the concern is legitimate and if the inquiring country will not use the information to embarrass the Philippines.

17 countries

Panelo also raised the possibility of looking into the diplomatic ties of the Philippines with the 17 other countries which backed Iceland’s resolution.

These countries are Argentina, Australia, Austria, The Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Uruguay.

“Maybe we should take a serious look on our relationship with them… As Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddyboy Locsin said, that is a consideration on the table.” he said.

Panelo said other countries should respect how the Philippines is being run since it is a sovereign country. He then urged them to believe the government instead of its critics.

“They have to believe what this government tells them because this government doesn’t lie. It behooves them to render respect to a sovereign state,” he said Monday.

Panelo also brushed aside suggestions that the police just submit drug war documents and records to the United Nations (UN) and allow its investigators to come to the Philippines to set the records straight.

“Dati naman tayong walang tinatago, ano pa ipapakita natin? Lahat ng mga nangyayari diyan sa digmaan laban sa droga ay nakatala, recorded lahat ‘yan (We are not hiding anything. Everything that happens in the drug war is recorded). All they have to do is to ask us, not to prejudge us,” he said.

“When the PNP (Philippine National Police) says that is the figure, then that is the recorded figure and everyone should believe that because the PNP is not in the business of lying. It is in the business of securing peace and order in this country,” he added.

The Philippines is also not required to answer queries of other countries about running the government, he stressed.

“It is discretionary on the part of a sovereign government to respond or not to respond to any question relative to anything concerning the affairs of this government,” Panelo said.

The Philippines can deny the entry of any investigator since Iceland’s resolution is not legally binding to begin with, Panelo noted.

Locsin has already questioned the validity of the resolution, reiterating that the number of member-states who voted for the resolution was not a simple majority. He, however, said the Palace will let the United Nations do whatever it decides to do.


France, one of the non-member countries of the UNHRC that co-sponsored the Iceland resolution remains a friend of the Philippines.

“We are friends with Iceland. We are (a) friend of the Philippines. We are friends with many countries. Whether we co-sponsored or not, this text is not the alpha and omega of international relations,” French Ambassador to Manila Nicolas Galey told reporters during the celebration of the French National at his residence in Makati City.

While France will not comment on the Philippines’ right to react “as it wants to react,” Galey, however, said it is his job and the will of the French government “to look forward to build on the good results of the Joint Economic Committee that was held between officials of Manila and Paris two weeks ago.

The French envoy noted that Philippine authorities are clearly not happy with the resolution, which he said is a fact that is part of their “international diplomatic life.”

“We have our views on this situation and while on the report that was made, again, we don’t think that our relationship would be so much affected by something that is obviously something important. Compared with all the things we have to do together don’t deserve, in our view, so much attention,” Galey said. (with a report from Roy Mabasa)