Philippines’ Duterte withdraws EU eviction threat: spokesman

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte incorrectly based his threat to expel European ambassadors within 24 hours on news reports, and there are no plans to kick them out, his spokesman said Friday.

Duterte threatened in a fiery speech on Thursday to quickly send European envoys home as he accused their governments, without citing evidence, of plotting to have Manila “excluded” from the UN.

“You think we are a bunch of morons here. You are the one. Now the ambassadors of those countries listening now, tell me, because we can have the diplomatic channel cut tomorrow. You leave my country in 24 hours, all, all of you,” Duterte said.

Duterte’s spokesman, Ernesto Abella, issued a statement on Thursday night confirming the eviction threat but on Friday told reporters there had been no orders to send them home.

“There is no directive to do that,” Abella told reporters when asked if European ambassadors should leave.

Abella said the presidential outburst was triggered by media reports about a small group of European lawmakers and aides who came to Manila and held a press conference on Monday condemning the Philippines’ deadly drug war.

“Basically he (Duterte) was reacting to what he was reading,” Abella said, adding later that the president was “assuming” the reports were correct.

“So basically it’s a lesson for us also for the need for critical reporting and reading of the news. So the president reacted as any leader would when national sovereignty is violated. So we call upon also for the media to heed his request for correct reporting.”

After Duterte issued the threat the EU delegation to the Philippines clarified the visitors were not a European Union mission. Abella agreed on Friday that was the case.

Nevertheless, the visiting European lawmakers did not raise the prospect of the Philippines being kicked out of the United Nations, according to their official statement and various reports in the major local media outlets.

Abella did not explain how Duterte made that assumption that they wanted the Philippines excluded from the UN.

Asked if the Philippine government had formally clarified Duterte’s comments with the European missions in Manila, Abella said: “I suppose all venues will be exhausted regarding that matter”.

A press officer of the EU delegation to the Philippines told AFP on Friday no official explanation has been conveyed to it by the Duterte government.

Duterte won elections last year after vowing to eradicate the illegal drug trade in six months, and vowing that 100,000 people would be killed in the process.

Police have since reported killing 3,850 people in anti-drug operations while thousands of others have been murdered in unexplained circumstances.

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