Panelo: Cabinet men don’t have the last word
MANILA, Philippines — After officials hinted of leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and cutting ties with Iceland, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said yesterday the Philippines has opted to maintain the status quo so it could fire back “insults” and teach Europeans “moral manners” for voting to have alleged drug killings in the Philippines reviewed.
“We’re NOT severing diplomatic relations with any country. If we did, where’s the conversation? How do you insult those who insulted us if you cut them off?” Locsin said yesterday on Twitter.
But the words of Cabinet members are not final, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo stressed in reaction to Locsin’s pronouncements.
“Members of the Cabinet’s words can never be final. They are all subject to change without prior notice by the chief architect and the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. In other words, he is the President,” Panelo told journalists.
President Duterte unleashed expletives at Iceland after the resolution it sponsored was adopted by the UNHRC.
“How are we to continue to upbraid a nation of women beaters & eugenicists if we cut off the conversation. No, we must continue it. Many infant lives at stake here; not to mention women beaten up in the long nights of Iceland. It is a moral duty to continue the conversation,” Locsin said.
He called the UNHRC vote to have alleged massive drug-related killings examined “small” and “harmless.”
“UNHRC vote is a small and harmless matter; we’re staying in UNHRC as a pedagogical duty to teach Europeans moral manners,” Locsin tweeted.
“We will stay in the HRC out of duty to teach those whose awful history cries out for moral instruction how to avoid the hypocrisy that is the tribute vice pays to the virtue they so sorely lacked,” he said.
The foreign affairs chief said the Philippines needs to “educate the races that don’t shower daily.”
Human Rights Watch said the Philippines refuses to be scrutinized by the UN for the thousands of killings in the “drug war” but behaves like a victim.
“The ones who don’t take daily showers already invented their facts; the Queen in Alice: ‘First the judgment then the trial.’ They’re not gonna change fantasy for the truth. Too much trouble. They’d have to exhume at least 5,000 bodies not to say 27,000 as falsely claimed,” Locsin said.
Arms talks continue
The Geneva-based body voted on Thursday to investigate the bloody “war on drugs” in the Philippines and urged the Philippine government to do more to prevent extrajudicial killings linked to the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.
In a close vote of 18 to 14 with 15 abstentions, the 47-member council adopted a resolution expressing concern over thousands of killings in the conduct of President Duterte’s war on drugs.
The resolution also calls on the Philippine government to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights by facilitating country visits and “refraining from all acts of intimidation or retaliation” against rights experts.
In his tweet, Locsin urged top defense and security officials to continue talks with countries that co-sponsored or voted for the Iceland-initiated resolution.
“I have urged our top national defense & security officials to continue sales talks even with those who voted for/co-sponsored the Iceland resolution,” Locsin said.
“As I said, we need to buy their weapons as they need to sell them to us because we must defend our national territory,” he said.
On Sunday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippines is eyeing acquisition of arms, ships, aircraft, drones and other military equipment from France and the Czech Republic. France co-sponsored the resolution with Iceland while the Czech Republic voted to adopt it.
“France has been making the equipment for the longest time and they have good quality of equipment,” Lorenzana told reporters at the French National Day reception on Sunday night.
He said the Czech Republic had also offered to supply firearms, drones and other military equipment to the Philippines.
“The Navy is considering France to be the source of our submarine,” he said.
French Ambassador Nicolas Galey said that France’s co-sponsoring the Iceland resolution is not the “alpha and omega” of international relations.
“We are friends with Iceland. We are friends of the Philippines. We are friends with many countries. Whether we co-sponsored or not this text is not the alpha and omega of international relations and we have our views on this situation,” Galey told reporters at the Bastille Day reception.
At a press conference, Panelo said that while officials may articulate the President’s views and positions on issues, it’s the word of the Chief Executive that ultimately will prevail.
“We are just alter egos. My job is just to express his thoughts in the manner he wants it – according to him – and the other alter egos is to convey to the people the messages of the President based on the policies… he told us at the inception of his presidency,” he added.
Panelo said Duterte respects Cabinet members’ turf so they are entitled to express their views on various issues.
“But if the President says ‘this is the policy,’ then we have to toe the line,” he said.
He stressed there are no contradictions between his statement and that of Locsin’s because the President is still studying whether to sever relations with Iceland.
Panelo said Duterte was puzzled as to why Iceland came up with a resolution seeking a report on the drug war.
“According to him, he can’t even understand why Iceland is making that posturing,” he said.
“Until now, he is in wonderment why Iceland is doing that. He can only speculate… or the two of us can only speculate that maybe some activists either from this country or elsewhere are feeding Iceland with the wrong information. And Iceland is so naive to accept everything that it hears or receives.”
Panelo said sovereign states should give due respect to each other and should express their concerns through proper channels.
“If there is any concern on violation of human rights on the part of others vis-à-vis the others, they should at least give a formal communication to those subject of their concern, as a matter of courtesy and civility, so that we can properly respond,” he said.
Panelo downplayed the possible impact of severed relations with Iceland, saying the country has other trading partners. He said there are only about 2,000 Filipinos in the European country.
“We’ve been having trade relations with other countries so I don’t think cutting a relationship with one country would affect us,” Panelo said.
The Philippines and Iceland established diplomatic ties in 1999. The two countries have been “steady partners” in the areas of maritime, mining, renewable energy, medical services, fisheries and geothermal energy, according to the website of the Philippine embassy in Norway, which oversees the operation of the consulate in Iceland.
Iceland’s investments in the Philippines include Biliran Geothermal Inc., a joint venture of Filtech Energy Drilling Corp. and ORKA Energy Philippines where ORKA Energy of Iceland has equity, the embassy said.
Panelo said the Philippines would continue trading with Iceland “as long as it’s beneficial to us.”
He said trading relations between the two countries may continue even if diplomatic ties have been severed.
He also expressed belief that Filipino workers in Iceland would not be deported over the issue.
“I don’t think even if you cut ties with a particular country, if it benefits that country to be entering into a commercial agreement with one who cuts its ties, I don’t think they will sever that relationship. It’s only the diplomatic relations,” he said.
Panelo said he and Duterte did not talk about the possibility of the Philippines leaving the UNHRC. He said the President did not say anything about the 18 countries that supported the UNHRC resolution. “He was more concerned on Iceland,” Panelo said.
Asked if he agreed with Locsin that the UNHRC vote is a small and harmless matter, Panelo replied: “Maybe with respect to the votes garnered, there is no significance. Only others are… especially the critics and detractors are giving importance to the adoption of the resolution.”
“But if you analyze the 47 countries with more than half of them not joining the proponent, then it shows that’s insignificant,” he added.
He emphasized the resolution would not have a huge impact on the image of the Philippines abroad.
“We have been saying it’s not even unanimous, it’s not even a simple majority. But at the same time, we are reacting, because you cannot do that to a fellow sovereign state,” he added.
Meanwhile, incoming Sen. Imee Marcos stressed she is in favor of severing ties with Iceland but not with UNHRC.
She said being a member of international organizations like the UNHRC gives the country a forum to present its platform and air its positions on issues.
“We should not leave the UNHRC. We are not USA. We lose our voice if we leave. UNHRC is government represented. The votes are cleared by capital. The countries who voted against us means our ambassadors in those countries might not have been instructed by home office or DFA to lobby and give our side of the story,” Marcos said. – With Alexis Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe
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