By Genalyn Kabiling
Iceland’s push for a human rights probe on the Philippines has left President Duterte in a state of “wonderment,” Malacañang said Tuesday.
As the President continued to mull over severing the country’s ties with Iceland, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte suspected that the Nordics country could have been misled by false information or was “naive” to accept such data.
“Well according to him, he can’t even understand why Iceland is making that posturing. He has been—that Iceland has been doing that I think twice. Last year ganoon din ang posisyon niya eh and the other year [It was the same position last year and the other year],” Panelo said during a news conference at the Palace.
“Until now, he is in wonderment why Iceland is doing that. He can only speculate… or the two of us can only speculate that maybe some activists either from this country or elsewhere are feeding Iceland with the wrong information. And Iceland naman is so naïve to accept everything that it hears or receives,” he added.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) recently approved a resolution initiated by Iceland seeking a report on the alleged abuses related to the Philippines’ deadly war on drugs.
The resolution was supported by 18 of the 47 member-nations of the UN rights council. Fourteen nations rejected the resolution while 15 members abstained.
According to Panelo, the President was seriously considering cutting relations with Iceland over the “grotesquely one-sided, outrageously narrow and maliciously partisan” resolution.
“Well he mentioned last (Monday) night that he is seriously considering cutting diplomatic ties with Iceland. There are only about two thousand Filipinos there and, as far as we know, there are no trade relations between these two countries – except maybe on fish,” he said.
Panelo insisted that the Iceland-led resolution was based on false information and unverified facts and figures and “only assaults the sovereignty of this country.”
He said sovereign states must give due respect to each other. “If there is any concern on violations of human rights on the part of others, they should at least give a formal communication to those subjects of their concern, as a matter of courtesy and civility so that we can properly respond,” he said.
He said the resolution, backed by a small group of UN member-nations, was also “insignificant.”
“Only others, especially the critics and detractors, are giving importance to the adoption of the resolution. But if you analyze the 47 countries with more than half of them not joining the proponent, then it shows it’s insignificant,” he added.
He likewise fended off speculations that the UN resolution would affect the country’s reputation abroad.
“The image, no, definitely not because we’ve been saying that it’s not unanimous, it’s not even a simple majority. But, at the same time, we are reacting because you cannot do that to a fellow sovereign state,” Panelo ended.
On reports Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. was opposed to cutting ties with Iceland, Panelo said Cabinet members are entitled to express their opinions but must “toe the line” once the President makes a final decision on a policy or issue.
“Since he gives us carte blanche with respect to our turfs and territory, we are therefore entitled to express our opinion based on what we thought to be consistent with the policy of the President. But if the President says ‘this is the policy,’ then we have to toe the line,” he said.
He said Cabinet members’ words are “never final” and are subject to change without prior notice by the President.
“We are just alter egos. My job is to just to express his thoughts in the manner he wants it – according to him – and the other alter egos is to convey to the people the messages of the President based on the policies of the President,” he said.