Corporate Watch

It was coming. With President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s well-known distaste for the European Union (EU) and its unsolicited advice on human rights violations in the country, the expected temperamental “ergo” to his dislike would logically (or illogically?) flow to the rejection of aid from the EU — the first-ever by a democratic developing country.

Since May, the Philippines has refused monetary aid from the EU reportedly due to criticism over Duterte’s anti-drug campaign. The country will not accept help that comes with conditions that may affect internal affairs, it was announced by Malacañang (CNN Philippines, 10/25/2017). Then, on Oct. 12, the President, reacting to a visit by delegates of the Progressive Alliance and Party of European Socialists, again attacked the EU, which he claimed threatened to have the country expelled from the United Nations (UN) because of his war on drugs (Ibid.).

The President’s anger revved up even more as he said the EU can “go to hell” if they do not accept the explanation behind his tirades against it. In a speech at the Association of Southeast Asian Law Associations last week, he said Special Envoy to the EU Edgardo Angara is in talks with EU officials about his recent lashing out against the international body (Ibid.).

“Is the EU important?” ANC host Karen Davila asked Mr. Angara directly (ABS-CBN, 10/25/2017). He seemed to diplomatically avoid the question, swerving instead to China and Russia, totalitarian regimes, he said, “who had no history of philanthropy (Ibid.).” He then talked about Europe, who “pioneered” in human rights in the aftermath of atrocities in the World Wars. Mr. Angara also connected the UN to the reparations after the wars in Europe, saying the Philippines was one of the first signatories. It might have sounded like blurbs for the cast of characters in Duterte’s surreal scenario of his country sans aid from the EU.

But what Mr. Angara openly worried about was “a possible, but not probable loss by our country of its GSP+ status (Ibid.).” The Philippines was granted beneficiary country status under the EU-GSP+ in December 2014, allowing it to export 6,274 eligible products duty-free to the EU market (The Philippine Star, 9/28/2017). Mr. Angara and Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez had just presented to the EU Parliament and in meetings with various trade institutions in Brussels last month a request for the EU to further engage the Philippines through the expansion of the GSP+ (Ibid.).

“The Philippine delegation assured the EU that the Philippines continues to adhere to protecting human rights and the President’s zero tolerance for abusive enforcers. There is clear rule of law and strong democracy in the country,” Mr. Lopez reported of that Brussels presentation for expanded preferential trade with the EU (Ibid.).

But the human rights situation in the Philippines worsened in the second half of 2016 after Mr. Duterte assumed office, the EU said in its annual report on human rights and democracy in the world (, 10/23/2017). The EU report noted a “marked… serious deterioration in respect for the right to life, due process and the rule of law” (Ibid.).

The EU report cited local media that around 6,000 people were killed from July to mid-December in 2016, which figures were downsized to “a little more than 3,900 drug ‘personalities’” killed in anti-narcotics operations according to the October #RealNewsPH data release by government (Ibid.). “Government has disputed media reports and those made by independent human rights monitors, saying these are bloated to make the administration look bad. Authorities, including Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, claim all those who died had forced law enforcement agents to shoot back and kill them (Ibid.).”

But, “The President’s statements and actions have seemingly encouraged the police to take an aggressive approach in dealing with drug users and pushers, and have — according to human rights advocates — also encouraged vigilante style extrajudicial killings,” the EU report insisted (Ibid.). The EU also reported that 31 human rights defenders were killed in the Philippines in 2016. The Global Impunity Index ranked the Philippines fourth in the world on Impunity last year (Ibid.).

“As a State Party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Philippines is obliged to respect its obligations under international law,” the EU said (Al Jazeera, 10/24/2017). “The EU report reiterated a statement released by a delegation of EU legislators who visited the country in July and expressed concern over bills pending in Congress, such as the proposed lowering of the age of criminal responsibility in the country from 15 to nine years and the restoration of the death penalty (Ibid.).”

And so Mr. Cayetano said on Oct. 25 that “if foreign donors would give us conditionalities that will affect our sovereignty and give (them) the right to interfere into our domestic affairs, we will not accept that donation” (Interaksyon, 10/26/2017). EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen talked with Mr. Cayetano and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and “he thought that the two department heads ‘are practical people’ who ‘at the end of the day’ would ‘look at the principles, and look at what actually is happening, what is our development assistance all about (Ibid.).’”

Mr. Jessen said the EU was internally discussing the amount that it was planning to grant (to the Mindanao rehabilitation) that could be increased from €55 million to €100 million or about P6 billion (Ibid.). This is not a small sum, considering the P20 billion that has to be raised by the Philippine government for the rebuilding of Marawi alone. No strings attached?

A paper titled “Foreign Aid as Foreign Policy Tool” by Clair Apodaca of the Department of Political Science, Virginia Tech, published by the Oxford University Press (2017) collates the research of various foreign policy academicians and practitioners towards the general conclusion that foreign aid indeed has “strings attached” for the benefit of donor countries (, 10/28/2017). “Foreign aid is a tool of foreign policy, not solely an instrument for the economic development of poor countries,” Apodaca declares. “Funding foreign aid with conditionalities can be used to enhance national security, further economic and political interests, and (also) ultimately empower the citizenry of poor countries (Ibid.).”

A hard decision for the Duterte administration to make. But first, let’s look honestly into those alleged extrajudicial killings and human rights violations. It won’t hurt to listen to the growing concern of the rest of the world. Let’s first prove them wrong.


Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.