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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Memo on aid just a ‘political statement’

Malacañang said Tuesday the memorandum blocking the loans from 18 countries that favored the Iceland-led resolution probing President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war is a “political statement” that will not affect the Philippines’ bilateral relations with other states.

Critics and opposition lawmakers have slammed Duterte over the memorandum dated Aug. 27 ordering all government agencies and state-owned firms to cut off all official development aid talks with the 18 countries that voted for the resolution.

“That’s a political statement. You don’t mess with this country with that kind of resolution,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters.

He said Duterte’s order will not affect the Philippines’ relations with those countries since its bilateral relations with them was not confined to loans.

“No effect. Our relationship is not confined to loans,” Panelo said. 

“Those who react are the critics. They [countries] haven’t reacted, so they were not offended by the move of the President.”

Malacañang had previously said the memorandum only covered the loans and grants still being negotiated or about to be signed, and that the previous deals with the 18 countries were not affected.

The Iceland-sponsored resolution passed by a minority vote in July, and it asked the UN Human Rights Council to probe the human rights situation in the Philippines amid Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs.

The 18 countries that favored the resolution were Argentina, Australia, Austria, the Bahamas, Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine and Uruguay.

The resolution drew the ire of Duterte, who publicly mocked Iceland and mulled over cutting diplomatic ties with it.

Duterte launched his anti-drug campaign in 2016, and since then police say they have killed over 5,500 drug suspects. 

However, human rights groups say the true toll is four times that number.

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