Tough-talking Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte has warned the EU and other states he could order their diplomats to leave “in 24 hours” for calling on his country to be barred from the UN over its bloody drug war. The EU denies making such a statement.
“You think that we are a bunch of morons here,” the president said during a televised speech in a newly inaugurated press briefing room in Manila.
“We can have the diplomatic channels cut tomorrow. You leave my country in 24 hours, all of you.”
You must have taken the Philippines for granted, saying that we could be excluded…. Is it your decision, you really think that you can do it? Do you think Russia and China would allow it?”
Duterte’s words were in response to a seven-member delegation of politicians from the international Progressive Alliance and the Party of European Socialists which condemned the drug war during a visit over October 8-9. The delegation included members from Sweden, Germany, Italy, Australia and the US.
The EU has denied being connected with the visit or that the seven-member delegation represents EU policy.
“The European Union was not part of the organization or planning of that visit – neither the Delegation of the European Union in the Philippines nor the European Union institutions in Brussels,” the EU office in Manila said in a statement.
“The statements made by the Progressive Alliance during its visit to the Philippines were made solely on behalf of the Progressive Alliance and do not represent the position of the European Union.”
The Progressive Alliance warned that the Philippines risks losing an exclusive trade deal with the EU if it did not stop extra-judicial killings, but did not call for country to be expelled from any international bodies. However, in an interview on Saturday Human Rights Watch (HRW) Geneva director John Fisher did say that Manila may lose its position on the UN Human Rights Council if the alleged abuses in the country continue.
“Membership comes with responsibilities,” Fisher told Rappler. “But so many states underlining the fact that the Philippines is in violation of its membership obligations is a signal that it is one of the options available to the international community if the government persists in violating the right to life.”
A spokesman for the president later accused the Progressive Alliance of misrepresenting itself as an “EU mission”.
Duterte has frequently ripped into the EU and other foreign governments for criticizing his anti-drugs campaign. In March, he labelled the bloc “sons-of-bitches” for advocating an “idiotic” approach focused on rehab.
In several countries of the EU as well as Switzerland and Canada, heroin addicts can freely inject clean doses of narcotics under medical supervision in specialized clinics. The idea is to prevent overdoses and help them beat their addiction by moving them away from the criminal black market, as well as to stop the spread of drug-related crime and infectious diseases such as HIV.
Since taking office in June last year, President Duterte has made tackling the drug problem in the Philippines his number-one priority.
The campaign has come under heavy criticism from human rights bodies as thousands of people have been shot dead in drug-related killings, though it’s unclear how many of these have been during legitimate police operations and how many have come at the hands of drug gangs and vigilantes.