John Matthew Cruz
THE Duterte administration on Sunday dismissed the warning of the envoy of the European Union that EU countries could block the entry of Philippine exports if drug-related killings continue.
In support of the Palace’s stance, a Philippine lawmaker called on the 28-nation bloc to stop meddling in Philippine affairs.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella took exception to the statement made by EU Ambassador Franz Jessen that the Philippines’ refusal to meet its commitments to UN human rights agreements could affect trade relations with 28 EU member-states.
Abella noted that no less than the head of the Task Force on Extrajudicial Killings of the Commission on Human Rights, led by Commissioner Gwen Pimentel-Gana, had stated that the spate of extrajudicial killings were not state-sponsored.
“Non-trade accusations, especially if baseless and undeserved, should therefore not be linked with trade programs. Philippine police authorities are conducting legitimate police operations that require observance of operational protocols, and police authorities who breach procedures are answerable to the law,” Abella said in a statement.
The country benefits from the GSP+ (Generalized System of Preferences) scheme with the EU that allows the Philippines and other developing nations to pay less or no duties on their exports to the EU, thus giving crucial access to European markets.
At least 7,000 have been killed since Duterte took over the presidency in June 2016. Of this figure, about 4,000 are deemed drug-related.
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo is heavily opposed to the anti-drug war, telling a United Nations anti-narcotics conference last month that even family members of suspected drug personalities have been arrested or killed.
In October, Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo was murdered by the police after he was nabbed on a fake warrant of arrest for drug charges.
Abella insisted that the war on drugs was aboveboard.
“We assure our friends and allies that the Philippines will respect its international commitments. The President’s war against dangerous drug traffickers intends to protect the innocent which illegal drugs would destroy. The citizens appreciate the long-awaited peace and order under President Duterte,” Abella said.
Abella noted that the Philippine economy was ready for takeoff, considering the $7.9 billion worth of foreign investments that came in 2016, or a jump of 44 percent from the previous year. Investments could still go higher with peace and order, he said.
“We would rather that the European Parliament engage us as partners in nation-building, as the visionary EU business community seems to intend themselves,” Abella said.
A senator on Sunday criticized the EU anew for meddling with the affairs of the Philippines, saying it should try to understand the drug problem in the country.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said the EU has no moral right to question the methods of the Philippine government in dealing with the illegal drug problem, considering that some of its member-nations tolerate drug use.“The European Union has no moral right to interfere in how we handle our illegal drugs problems considering the fact that many of their member-countries allow the use of dangerous drugs,” Sotto said in an interview aired over radio station dzBB.
Sotto said the actions of some EU parliamentarians seemed to show that they were more sympathetic with drugs pushers and addicts killed during legitimate police operations, rather than with the thousands of families affected by the proliferation of illegal drugs.
More than 77,000 families have been affected by crimes involving drugs, such as murder or rape, he said.
“They are only concerned of the picture showing a crying wife of a drug pusher. But how about the families who were affected by that drug pusher?” the senator added.
Senator Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian however said the Philippines should first determine if there was indeed a threat from the EU.
Gatchalian said the government must continue to engage with the EU because Philippine exporters depend on European markets.
The President’s attacks on the EU do not help the situation, and the government must show to EU members the good results of the anti-drug war of the Duterte administration, he said.
“Statistics will show that 81 percent of Filipinos experienced a huge improvement on our peace and order and these are the numbers that matter,” he said.
“We have to take this into account because at the end of the day we are serving the Filipino people and not the European Union,” Gatchalian added.