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Philippines Retreats From Threat to Expel E.U. Envoys

Posted: October 13, 2017 at 7:19 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

The Philippines backed away on Friday from President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat the day before to expel European ambassadors, his spokesman said, after apparently misunderstanding the source of criticism of his deadly drug crackdown.

The spokesman, Ernesto Abella, said the group “falsely portrayed itself as an E.U. mission.”

After visiting the Philippines this month, the European liberal advocacy group Progressive Alliance issued a statement saying it was “extremely alarmed” over “gross human rights violations” and hinting that the European Union might tighten its terms of trade with the Philippines over its spotty rights record.

“For so long as the president has tolerated these interferences, he has decided that these must stop,” Mr. Abella said on Friday, “if only to preserve the integrity and dignity of our state.”

But as to whether the Philippines was forcing envoys to leave, he said, “We are not,” adding, “There’s no directive to do that.”

In Mr. Duterte’s angry pronouncement on Thursday, the president said, “You think that we are a bunch of morons here. Because we can have the diplomatic channel cut tomorrow. You leave my country in 24 hours. All. All of you.”

People suspected of dealing drugs were among scores killed in August in a multiday police operation in Manila.

Rights groups, among others, have broadly condemned the president’s brutal antidrug campaign. But after the Progressive Alliance issued its statement, the European Union sought to distance itself and said trade relations remained intact.

“The statements made by the Progressive Alliance during its visit to the Philippines were made solely on behalf of the Progressive Alliance and do not represent the position of the European Union,” the 28-nation bloc said.

The Philippines is also in the process of negotiating its trade agreement with the European Union. The country now receives preferential treatment, allowing more than 6,200 products from the Philippines to enter the bloc duty free.

The deal is under review, and the bloc’s report on the Philippines is expected as early as January.

The Philippines’ trade secretary, Ramon Lopez, who recently visited Europe, played down on Friday the impact of Mr. Duterte’s statement, stressing instead a “lot of collaborative, positive efforts and programs” with the European Union.

Mr. Lopez said he told the bloc’s officials, “Please don’t be carried away by the international media releases, because you would really be concerned if you read them.”

He added, “We assured them that our president, No. 1, really does not want abuses like those,” referring to vigilante and police killings during Mr. Duterte’s tenure.


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