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International delegation did not claim to represent EU

A photo of the press conference held by Akbayan, the Progressive Alliance and the Party of European Socialists. Photo from Progressive Alliance website
MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:05 p.m.)  — A seven-member team of parliamentarians and activists that came to Manila did not claim to represent the European Union as the Palace said it did Thursday night.
 
A press statement posted on the Progressive Alliance on October 9 actually begins with the statement that they are a "human rights mission of Progressive Alliance and the Party of European Socialists" and that they are "extremely alarmed at the mounting number of killings under President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs."
 
The statement also included a roster of the delegation, as well as their specific designations and affiliations:
  • Konstantin Woinoff (coordinator, Progressive Alliance)
  • Giacomo Filibeck (deputy secretary general, Party of European Socialists)
  • Emilia Töyrä (member of parliament, Sweden)
  • Thomas O. Melia (deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy and human rights in the Barack Obama administration)
  • Arne Lietz (member of European Parliament, S&D Group)
  • Conny Reuter (secretary general, SOLIDAR)
  • Ben Maxfield (Australian Labour Party)
A tarpaulin behind the delegates during their press conference also clearly identifies them as being with the Progressive Alliance and the Party of European Socialists.
 
The group said on its press statement that they were hosted by Akbayan Party, a member of the Progressive Alliance. Akbayan's logo also appears on the tarpaulin where the European Union logo is conspicuously absent.
 
"No such claims were made," Exequiel Salcedo of the legislative staff of Akbayan party-list told Philstar.com on Friday.
 
"They came here to the Philippines as a delegation from the Progressive Alliance, and spoke as members of the Progressive Alliance, which is an international network of political parties, civil society organizations, parliamentarians, and individuals dedicated to defend and uphold progressive values such as democracy, social justice, and human rights," Salcedo, who was at the press conference because Rep. Tom Villarin (Akbayan) was a panelist, said.
 
Villarin, in a follow up statement, said "the issue here is not misrepresentation of organization but the message put forward by the delegation: No to killings and stop silencing dissent!"
 
Konstantin Woinoff, coordinator for Progressive Alliance and part of the delegation, told Philstar.com in an email on Friday that the "mission represented the global progressive and social democratic party family."
 
"We were and after this mission we are even more alarmed at the mounting cases of killings under the so called 'war on drugs' by Philippine's President Duterte, the weakening of democratic institutions and the growing political persecution of opposition leaders as Senator (Leila) de Lima last year and recently against Senator Risa Hontiveros from our Philippine sister party Akbayan. Senator Hontiveros is accused of the absurd case of kidnapping and the baseless case of wiretapping," he also said.
 
He said that the perceived attacks on institutions and the cases against members of the political opposition are not isolated incidents. "[T]hey are interconnected, it is a strategy of the regime to silence any opposition and to intimidate the Philippine society," he said.
 
The Party of European Socialists, which also posted about the press conference on its website on October 10, also identified the group as a "delegation of the Progressive Alliance and the Party of European Socialists."
 
PES, in its statement on its website said that "if the human rights standards are not upheld, there must be consequences in the Philippines’ inclusion in the special trading instrument of the EU known as GSP+."

'Leave the Philippines in 24 hours'

On Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte delivered a caustic tirade against the European Union, which included a threat for the ambassadors of its member nations to leave the country.
 
 
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella explained that the president's "expression of outrage is in reaction to statements by a seven-member delegation of the International Delegates of the Progressive Alliance which has falsely portrayed itself as an EU mission."
 
The presidential spokesman added "this delegation's irresponsible statements protesting the alleged killings under the Duterte administration demean our status as a sovereign nation."
 
 
The European Union Delegation to the Philippines on Thursday night clarified that "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 EU also referred to supposedly misleading coverage of the press conference that gave the impression that the delegation was an EU mission. Philippine and international media reports in a list posted on the PA's website, however, did not refer to the delegation as being from the EU.
 
Thelma Gecolea, EU delegation to the Philippines public affairs officer, said they had monitored stories that misidentified the group as an EU mission and requested for corrections in response. She declined to name specific media outlets.
 
The EU had already disavowed the delegation the day before, pointing out that it was composed of people from Sweden, Germany, Italy, Australia and the United States. It had only one member of European Parliament.
 
"It is therefore not correct to label the visit an ‘EU mission’," the EU Delegation to the Philippines said.
 
 
Duterte delivered the tirade at the inauguration of a renovated media briefing room at the Malacañan, which was attended by members of the Presidential Communications Operations Office. — Jonathan de Santos
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