MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine government has appealed to the European Parliament to reconsider its threat to remove zero tariffs on trade if the Duterte administration fails to address serious concerns about extrajudicial killings in the country.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella made the appeal as he called on the body to “allow the country to address its domestic issues without foreign interference.”
But chief presidential legal adviser Salvador Panelo was more direct in warning the group against meddling in Philippine government affairs, advising it to mind its own business.
Congress also slammed the European Parliament for interfering even on issues like the reorganization of committee chairmanships.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the European body has already “crossed the line” and should “step back to do some soul searching.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also asked the international community not to influence the ongoing legal processes in the country, including the drug case filed against detained Sen. Leila de Lima.
“The DFA expresses its concern with the European Parliament’s resolution on the case of Sen. Leila de Lima as it casts aspersion on Philippine legal processes, its judicial system and the guarantees enshrined in the Constitution to uphold and protect the rights of all individuals,” the DFA said.
On Thursday, the European Parliament issued a joint resolution to call for support from EU member-nations in the establishment of a probe at the UN Human Rights Council into the “unlawful killings and other violations” in the Philippines. It said there is an alarming rate of deaths linked to President Duterte’s war against illegal drugs and done by Philippine law enforcement sectors and vigilantes.
Parliament members “condemned the killings strongly” and expressed “grave concern over credible reports to the effect that the Philippine National Police (PNP) is falsifying evidence to justify extrajudicial killings, and that overwhelmingly the urban poor are those being targeted.”
It also warned of a possible removal of GSP+ preferences or the Generalized System of Preferences Plus, which allows free tariffs on two-thirds of all product categories.
Abella urged the group to make sure that it is not misled on the true crime and drug situation of the Philippines, reiterating that the government does not tolerate summary executions.
“On the possible loss of zero tariffs, we urge the European Parliament to reconsider its decision as we remind everyone, including international bodies, to allow us to deal with our domestic challenges without unwarranted foreign interference,” Abella said in a statement issued hours after the EU released their resolution.
He added that the administration’s critics, “with deep personal interests, have brilliantly manipulated biased information locally and internationally by using willing public officials who are agreeable to lend credence to baseless claims.”
“We reiterate that the Duterte administration does not engage in so-called extrajudicial killings. It continues to follow due process and holds itself accountable for its actions,” the statement added.
Abella maintained that De Lima is not a victim of political persecution but a person who should be held liable for her acts that tolerated proliferation of drugs at the New Bilibid Prison during her term as justice secretary.
“Furthermore, Sen. Leila de Lima was arrested on charges that are criminal in nature – not political. Her arrest strictly followed legal procedures and given the chance to explain and rebut allegations against her,” the spokesman stressed.
He pointed out that the Muntinlupa regional trial court – which is both independent and competent – then found probable cause on the case and issued a warrant for the senator’s arrest.
“The Philippine government asks the international community to refrain from influencing the outcome of a case that is rightly under the jurisdiction of Philippine local courts. The pillars of criminal justice system remain to be effective and well-functioning in the Philippines,” the DFA statement read.
Pimentel said the EU parliament should not micromanage the affairs of the Philippine government and its Congress, lamenting that the group even went as far as criticizing the recent Senate reorganization.
“They have no right to manage our affairs, more so to micromanage us. They even spoke about the suspension and changes in the committees. Sorry to say but who are they? What if we do the same to them?” Pimentel stressed.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said the EU parliament must be reminded that the country’s judicial processes are fully functioning.
“Its action in demanding the release of Sen. De Lima is a clear display of arrogance of power and a pure interference in our domestic affairs… They are mistaken in thinking they can oppress us,” Sotto said. – With Paolo Romero, Helen Flores, Janvic Mateo