July 16, 2019
The decision on whether or not the Philippines would pull out of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) or cut ties with Iceland would be made by President Rodrigo Duterte, Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said on Monday.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Sunday raised the possibility of the country’s withdrawal from the UNHRC following the council’s approval of a resolution initiated by Iceland calling for an international review of the Philippines’ war on illegal drugs.
Sen. Imelda Josefa “Imee” Marcos had said the country should sever its ties with Iceland.
Panelo said the President would decide what action to take.
“Final, final decision on this matter [will be up to him, because] he is the architect of the country’s foreign policy,” he told reporters.
The Palace official added that “everything” would be taken into consideration and that a decision would be made based on the “best interest” of the Philippines.
He said the country should review its relations with Iceland.
“Maybe we should take a serious look at our relationship with them,” he said.
The spokesman said if Manila decides to cut ties with Iceland, there would be minimum consequences.
“How will it affect us? What are our relations with Iceland in the first place? We do not even have an embassy there and them, here,” he said.
He admitted though that Iceland’s move to ask other countries to investigate the Philippines’ drug war is enough reason to cut ties.
However, Sen. Panfilo Lacson cautioned the government against any plan to withdraw from the UNHRC.
“At the rate we are withdrawing from the UN bodies, it could only be a matter of time when we will be left to our own devices,” Lacson said in a text message.
The Philippines withdrew its membership from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in March 2018 amid its criticism on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
“We would not know when, what and how, but being a developing country, we may need to ask for help from the community of nations sooner or later,” Lacson added.
Locsin on Sunday mulled the possibility of the Philippines withdrawing from the
UNHRC, saying Iceland took the place of the US when that country pulled out of the council in June 2018 due to the body’s alleged “chronic bias” against Israel.
On Monday, Locsin clarified that Manila has no intention of leaving the UN, following a statement of Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd that the country leave the UN to save the Philippine government P445 million a year in mandatory contributions.
“Well, no; if you are not a member of the United Nations you are not a nation. When Taiwan was removed to make way for the People’s Republic of China it disappeared from the diplomatic scene,” Locsin tweeted.
Asked if there would be some repercussions if the Philippines pulled out from the UN, Sotto said, “Wala (Nothing). As a matter of fact, baka ang gusto nyang buuin pati United Nations na mismo (he [Locsin] may want the Philippines to leave the UN altogether).
“It’s up to the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) because last year we paid the UN $8.2-million mandatory contribution. We will be saving the country P445 million a year if we detached ourselves from the UN,” he added.
The Philippines was elected to the UNHRC in October 2018 and will sit in the body until 2021.
Sen. Francis Tolentino echoed Panelo, saying everything depends on the President.
“Everything depends on the President as the chief architect of our diplomatic relations under the Constitution. Our standing and reputation as a sovereign state in the community of nations must be anchored on national interests and dignity,” Tolentino said.
Malacañang on Monday said the UNHRC resolution was not legally binding.
“How can that be legally binding? It is not,” Panelo said.
He added that it was up to the Philippine government if it would allow probers inside the country.
“We have the authority to allow entry or deny entry to all foreigners in this country,” he said.
The spokesman, also Duterte’s chief legal counsel, once again vouched for the legitimacy of the government’s drug war.
He said the government may or may not respond to the UN panel that would investigate the war on drugs.
“It is discretionary on the part of a sovereign government to respond or not to respond to any question relative to anything concerning the affairs of this government. If we feel that the question is legitimate, we will respond,” he said.
“But if the question is only designed to fish information that it will use — by the inquiring country — to embarrass this government, certainly we will not oblige,” he added.
“We are not hiding anything, even before. What more can we show them? Like what we have said, everything that is happening in the anti-drug war is recorded. So, all they have to do is to ask us, not to prejudge us,” Panelo said.
Human rights groups had claimed that more than 20,000 people had been killed in the drug campaign, but the Philippine National Police said only more than 5,000 drug suspects died in police operations because they fought back.
BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO
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