Robredo: People will suffer over Duterte order to shun aid from countries backing UN drug war probe

By CNN Philippines Staff

Vice President Leni Robredo said people will suffer from the effects of President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to snub financial aid offered by countries that supported the resolution calling on the UN to probe the country’s drug war.

“Okay lang sana kung mayroon tayong perang pangpalit, pero kung walang perang pangpalit, pareho din na ‘yung magsasakripisyo ‘yung dapat sana beneficiaries nitong mga programang ito. Nakakalungkot dahil pandagdag na sana ito sa mga programa para sa mga mahihirap,” Robredo said Sunday on her radio program Biserbisyong Leni.

[Translation: It would have been okay if we had our own money to replace it, but if we don’t have anything to replace it with, the beneficiaries of these programs would have to sacrifice. It’s sad because this could have been additional funding for programs for the poor.]

She also recalled how the Philippines’ decision to withdraw its application for a grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) led to some projects not being funded.

The country decided to back out from the application after the MCC gave it failing marks on two key standards: rule of law and curbing corruption. The Philippines then said it was withdrawing to focus on the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City and not because it got a poor assessment from the independent US aid organization.

Now, the country has suspended all negotiations on financial assistance from the 18 countries that supported the Iceland-initiated move for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to investigate the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs.

Also reacting to the government’s stance, Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman warned that rejecting the aid offers will jeopardize almost half a billion dollars’ worth of financing, earmarked for infrastructure, trade and transport.

“This false pride of the Duterte administration foisted to block the UNHRC probe may ostracize the Philippines from concessional foreign finance and would conveniently justify the country’s availment of Chinese loans with much higher interest rates and shorter grace periods,” Lagman said.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo denied that Duterte ordered a halt to receiving aid from countries that backed the UN probe, even if the Bureau of Customs has published a copy of the memorandum on its website. As of Sunday, however, the memorandum is no longer accessible on the Customs’ website.

Eighteen members of the UNHRC, namely Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, UK, Uruguay and Iceland — the last as author of the resolution, voted to call for a UN probe on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Fourteen other nations, including the Philippines and China, voted against the conduct of a probe. The remaining 15 members of the UNHRC abstained.

Aside from the drug killings, the 18 countries asked the UN to investigate the following rights abuses: enforced disappearances; arbitrary arrest and detention; intimidation, persecution of, or violence against critics, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, journalists, and lawyers; and restrictions on the freedoms of opinion and expression.

Malacañang earlier said Duterte is “seriously considering” cutting diplomatic ties with Iceland. The President has repeatedly lashed out at the Nordic country as his administration maintained the Philippines will not allow UN investigators in the country.

Government data shows at least 6,600 people have been killed in anti-illegal drug operations since Duterte took office in July 2016.

The Duterte administration has argued it does not need the international community to intervene because it can investigate these cases, noting the murder conviction of three cops in the killing of then 17-year-old Kian delos Santos in a police operation in 2017. But human rights groups are saying it is not enough assurance justice will also be served in the cases of thousands of other victims.

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