Reuters / Manila
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed all departments and state-run firms to halt negotiations and agreements on grants and loans from countries that have backed a UN investigation into his bloody war on drugs.
With 18 countries in favour, the United Nations Human Rights Council approved a resolution in July to compile a comprehensive report on Duterte’s three-year crackdown, during which at least 6,700 people have been killed in what police say were shootouts with drug dealers who resisted arrest.
A document seen by Reuters, dated Aug 27 and signed by Duterte’s Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, said all agencies and state companies should suspend negotiations or agreements “pending the assessment of our relations with these countries”. Thousands of mostly urban poor drug users have also been killed in the Philippines in addition to the official police tally, many in mysterious circumstances.
The growing toll led to 11 UN experts issuing a statement of concern in June about what they called a “staggering” number of deaths during Duterte’s signature campaign.
Human rights groups accuse police of systematic cover-ups and summary executions of anyone associated with drugs, which police deny.
“All concerned officials are directed to suspend negotiations for and signing of loans and grant agreements with the governments of the countries that co-sponsored and/or voted in favour,” the memo said.
Medialdea did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Duterte’s spokesman and legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, said “the president has not issued any memorandum suspending loans and negotiation”. Panelo had previously called the resolution “grotesquely one-sided, outrageously narrow, and maliciously partisan”, arguing that it lacked legitimacy because the 18 council members who backed it was less than the 14 votes against and 15 abstentions combined.
Countries on the 47-member council that voted in favour of the resolution include Britain, Australia, Spain, Denmark, Iceland and Ukraine. It is not the first time Duterte has taken a stand against the international community over perceived criticism of his anti-narcotics campaign.
He once threatened to pull the Philippines out of the United Nations and publicly rejected 260mn euros ($286.91mn) of European Union development projects over remarks by some European parliamentarians.
It later emerged that the projects were never stopped.
Last year, he unilaterally withdrew the Philippines from the International Criminal Court, after it announced it was conducting a preliminary examination into alleged crimes against humanity. It is not immediately clear how a halt on loans from the 18 countries would impact the Philippines.
Economic Planning Secretary, Ernesto Pernia, told Reuters in a text message that “no infrastructure projects” would be affected.”Only some ODA grants,” he said, referring to Official Development Assistance.
Though the Philippines rejects the resolution itself, Duterte has not said he would deny UN representatives entry to his country to investigate, if a request is made.
His foreign minister, Teodoro Locsin, last week said such a request would be refused, criticising the UN human rights experts who had already made up their minds.
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