Rodrigo Duterte speaks at Davao International airport in Davao City in southern Philippines. File photo/ Reuters
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration has ordered the suspension of all loan and grant talks with foreign governments that backed a United Nations resolution to review human rights abuses during his signature anti-drug war.
The Iceland-sponsored UN Human Rights Council resolution passed by a minority vote in July, drawing a sharp riposte from Duterte, who bristles at Western condemnation of his campaign which has killed thousands and drawn international condemnation but is widely supported by Filipinos.
Last month, Duterte’s chief aide issued a memorandum which he signed “by order of the president” to cut off all official development aid talks with the countries that voted for the resolution, according to the document.
The memorandum was issued to the heads of all government agencies by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on August 27 and was posted on the official website of the Bureau of Customs but was taken down Saturday.
“All concerned officials are DIRECTED to suspend negotiations for and signing of all loan and grant agreements with the governments of the countries that co-sponsored and/or voted in favour of the aforesaid resolution,” it said.
The directive said the Aug.27 memorandum was issued “in light of the administrations’ strong rejection of the resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council.”
However, asked late Friday whether Duterte’s office had issued the document, Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said it was “not true,” adding he had spoken to the president about it.
Panelo also later issued a brief statement saying: “The President has not issued any memorandum suspending loans and negotiations involving 18 countries that voted in favour of the Iceland resolution.”
The 18 members that backed the resolution are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, and Uruguay.
The amount of aid that would be held up by the order was not known.
Some signatories are members of the European Union, one of the Philippines’ largest sources of official development assistance. The EU ambassador to Manila declined to comment.
Australia is also a key source of security assistance.
Panelo had told reporters shortly after the July vote that Duterte was seriously considering breaking diplomatic ties with Iceland, which had introduced the resolution.
Duterte launched the anti-drug crackdown in 2016, and since then police say they have killed over 5,500 drug suspects. However, human rights groups say the true toll is four times that number.
The UN review comes in addition to a preliminary examination already launched by war crimes prosecutors from the International Criminal Court, which the Philippines left earlier this year.
Robredo, who was elected separately to Duterte and has a frosty relationship with the president, said the thousands of people killed was already too many, with no evidence of a decline in drugs supply or usage.
However, Duterte did not identify the candidate as he also questioned his qualifications to lead the nation as well as his contributions to national welfare describing him as a “weak leader.”
The head of a Philippine online news site, among media agencies deemed critical of President Rodrigo Duterte, was arrested again on Friday, this time over an alleged investment violation.
The state-owned Tehran Times posted a photograph of Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, in a hotel lobby with Iranian Ambassador to Qatar Hamidreza Dehghani.
"Every day, women lead and make vital contributions to diplomatic efforts across the globe," said Lana Nusseibeh, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for Political Affairs and Permanent Representative of the UAE to the UN.
Rosemary DiCarlo told the UN Security Council that during talks in Cairo from June 12-20 the rivals reached "a broad consensus on most of the contentious articles” in the proposed 2017 constitution, which she called "commendable.”
Two of those killed were on the train and one was in the truck, Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesman Cpl. Justin Dunn said. Officials were still trying to determine the exact number of people aboard. Seven cars derailed, the patrol said.