THE European Parliament, in a resolution on the Philippines on Wednesday, April 18, flagged anew the government’s drug war on President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s watch, and called for “procedural steps” toward the “temporary withdrawal” of the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) status for the Philippines, under which the country has availed itself of as little as zero duties in its exports.
The European Union’s (EU) legislature called attention once more to this remedy “in the absence of substantive improvements” in Mr. Duterte’s drug war, which has raised international concern including by the EU.
The legislature, in its resolution, also “call(ed) on the Government of the Philippines to put an immediate end to the extrajudicial killings” in the drug war, whose fatality count it now pegs at 12,000, and ”reiterate(d) its call to release” Senator Leila M. De Lima. The detained opposition leader, a leading critic of Mr. Duterte’s drug war, found herself slapped with drug charges last year by Mr. Duterte’s government.
“(W)hile the progress in the implementation of the GSP+ conventions is largely positive, strong concerns remain around human rights violations related to the war on drugs,” the European Parliament said in a resolution notable for its many recommendations to the Philippine government and for what Human Rights Watch described as a “forceful message from the EU parliamentarians” to Mr. Duterte.
In response, the Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said the EU legislature had “crossed a red line” with its resolution, which he also criticized as “based on biased, incomplete and even wrong information and does not reflect the true situation on the ground.”
For his part, Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque Jr. said in his press briefing on Friday: “We, of course, find it unfortunate that members of the EU Parliament have once again interfered with the affairs of the Philippine state, rehashing issues and baseless claims that have been explained adequately by the Philippine government in several official statements.”
The new Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Director-General Oscar D. Albayalde, said for his part, “If they can give us the details of those sinasabi nilang (they claim to be) 12,000 (deaths), probably we’ll be able to check kung talagang totoo ‘yung data nilang ‘yon dahil napakalaki no’n (if their data is accurate because the numbers are too big).”
PNP sets the number of deaths from anti-illegal drugs operations at 4,128.
Mr. Duterte also drew international attention anew for the detention this week of Australian nun Patricia Fox, which he said he had ordered because of her “political activities” in the Philippines.
Ms. Fox has been released but the Commission on Human Rights said it will investigate her detention by the Bureau of Immigration.
Sought for comment at his briefing, Mr. Roque said, “Bahala sila kung iyan ang gusto nila.” (It’s up to them if they want to.) — M.N.D.L.Cruz