EU summons Philippines envoy over latest Rody tirade
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - March 29, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The European Union on Monday summoned a Philippine envoy to explain an expletive-laden tirade by President Duterte, who threatened to hang EU officials for opposing his efforts to reimpose the death penalty.

The EU’s external action service, the equivalent of a foreign office, said it hauled charge d’affaires Alan Deniega in to its Brussels headquarters to provide “an explanation for the recent, unacceptable comments” of  Duterte.

In a statement, EU spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said Deniega was to meet with Deputy Secretary General Jean-Christope Belliard.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said Deniega had a meeting with the European External Action Service of the EU in Brussels on March 27 “to discuss issues of mutual concern to Philippine-EU relations.”

“Embassy officials took the opportunity to inform the EU of developments in the Philippines,” Jose said.

The latest episode highlights growing European exasperation with the President. Earlier, the EU denied his allegations that it proposed solving the Philippines’ drug problem by creating treatment clinics where illegal drugs such as methamphetamine or cocaine would be dispensed.

The EU delegation to the Philippines issued a statement saying it has not “suggested, discussed, proposed or considered the use of any substitution drugs when treating addiction to methamphetamine ... or any other drug addiction in the Philippines.” It did not mention Duterte by name.

Duterte, who has lashed out at the EU repeatedly for raising human rights concerns over his deadly crackdown on illegal drugs, said in a speech Friday the EU had proposed a “health-based solution” to the drug problem that involved dispensing methamphetamine, locally known as shabu, cocaine or heroin.

He branded the supposed EU proposal a “government-sponsored idiotic exercise.”

“The sons of b***s, they want us to build clinics, then we should, instead of arresting or putting them in prison like in other countries, you go there and if you want shabu they will inject you or give you shabu,” he said in a speech before Filipino-Chinese businessmen.

“Then if you want cocaine, they will give you cocaine and if they want heroin, they will give you heroin,” Duterte said.

Malacañang, through presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, clarified the EU did not make such an offer but rather, it was a European country. Abella said the government rejected the offer.

The EU said that in cooperation with the World Health Organization and experts, it was working with Manila’s Department of Health and the government’s main anti-drug agency and selected villages to implement a program that “aims to support recovery from addiction, while keeping families together and facilitating development of social and job skills.”

The voluntary program plans to develop “recovery clinics and recovery homes,” where patients can receive better care, education and counseling without prescribing medication and ensuring confidentiality. Livelihood skills will be taught, the EU said.

Thousands have died under Duterte’s crackdown, which was launched after he took office in June, alarming the EU, Western governments and rights officials of the United Nations.

Non-interference

But Malacañang said Duterte’s recent remarks against the EU should be taken as a call for non-interference as the President felt “they (EU) were impinging, infringing on own national sovereignty.”

Abella also downplayed the EU summons to Deniega. He said the relationship between the Philippines and the EU “is quite excellent” despite Duterte’s penchant to curse the EU and other international bodies that criticized his drug war.

“They’ve offered rehabilitation centers which is socio-therapy based,” Abella said, but which has also been rejected by the Chief Executive.

Hungarian Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Peter Szijjarto likewise said in an interview that his country is not following the EU in criticizing the Philippines’ domestic policies.

“It’s a decision of the European Parliament (EP). Hungary (a member of the EU) has not made such kind of a ruling so once again I have to tell you that I don’t really like the approach with which EU or other countries try to comment about domestic issues of other countries,” Szijjarto told The STAR. 

He also said trade and non-trade issues must not be lumped together as the EP issued a resolution and proposal to revoke trade privileges with the Philippines to hold Duterte accountable for the killings.

Szijjarto, who led the opening of the Hungarian embassy in Manila yesterday, said the EP resolution was mentioned by Duterte during his meeting with the President in Davao on Monday.

“He mentioned many things, among them his line of internal/domestic policy,” Szijjarto said. “I didn’t say a word about your domestic issues because it’s not my job.”

He said the approach toward other countries requires taking into consideration that each nation is unique with different people, history, culture and understanding of the world.

“We really respect the Asian people. We respect the Asian cultures because there are more countries in Asia as well. We respect the decisions of the Asian people about the future of their countries. So we’re not coming here to lecture anyone,” he added.

The minister noted that imposing or lecturing countries on their domestic policies is not proper. “Why we come to Asia is because we would like to improve bilateral ties. We would like to build economic ties… trade ties. We would like to encourage investments to come to Hungary,” Szijjarto said.

“That’s our job and not to tell people how they should run their lives. We have our own challenges, which we need to tackle. We don’t need to get involved in challenges of others.”

Economic assistance to continue

Abella also banked on the presence of a group of European businessmen in the country.

“However, the European Parliament seems to be creating its own brand of noise… basically if you are talking about relationships with Europe, our relationships are quite solid and economically based,” he added.

EU Ambassador Franz Jessen also said trade relations with Manila would continue despite Duterte’s tirades, as he reiterated EU’s commitment of 6.1 million euros to finance the fourth phase of the EU-Philippine Trade Related Technical Assistance (TRTA) project following the completion of the program’s third phase this month.

“We are committed to support the strengthening of Philippines’ integration into the world economy, and to contribute to the country’s inclusive growth goals,” Jessen said.

“The EU is one of the major trading partners to the Philippines. In the month of January, we are actually the biggest export market for the Philippines. And you also see that we often are the biggest foreign direct investment partner to the Philippines. These are reflective of our belief in the Philippine economy,” he added.

A trade official said the funding commitment reflects the continued strong partnership between the Philippines and EU, which are “able to separate political issues from economic aspects.”

In another development, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo defended assistant secretary Lorraine Marie Badoy who came under fire for calling on the EU to just go into “child porn” instead of criticizing the Duterte administration.

Calling the reports blown out of proportion, Taguiwalo said Badoy was “being obviously sarcastic” when she made the remark on her Facebook account.

A known supporter of  Duterte, Badoy was appointed to the department to implement the medicine assistance to drug dependents undergoing rehabilitation.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Badoy called out critics of the President and noted the overwhelming public support for the present administration. – With Christina Mendez, Richmond Mercurio, Janvic Mateo, AP

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