By Karen Lema
SEPTEMBER 20, 2019 (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed all departments and state-run firms to halt negotiations and agreements on grants and loans from countries that have backed a U.N. investigation into his bloody war on drugs.
With 18 countries in favour, the United Nations Human Rights Council approved a resolution in July to compile a comprehensive report on Duterte’s three-year crackdown, during which at least 6,700 people have been killed in what police say were shootouts with dealers who resisted arrest.
A document seen by Reuters, dated Aug. 27 and signed by Duterte’s Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, said all agencies and state companies should suspend negotiations or agreements “pending the assessment of our relations with these countries”.
Thousands of mostly urban poor drug users have also been killed in the Philippines in addition to the official police tally, many in mysterious circumstances. The growing toll led to 11 U.N. experts issuing a statement of concern in June about what they called a “staggering” number of deaths during Duterte’s signature campaign.
Human rights groups accuse police of systematic cover-ups and summary executions of anyone associated with drugs, which police reject.
“In light of the administration’s strong rejection of the Resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which was carried through by the votes of a minority of the council members … all concerned officials are DIRECTED to suspend negotiations for and signing of loans and grant agreements with the governments of the countries that co-sponsored and/or voted in favour,” the memo said.
Medialdea did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Duterte’s office has called the resolution “grotesquely one-sided, outrageously narrow, and maliciously partisan”, arguing that it lacked legitimacy because the 18 council members who backed it was less than the 14 votes against and 15 abstentions combined.
Those countries on the 47-member council that voted in favour of the resolution include Britain, Australia, Spain, Denmark, Iceland and Ukraine.
It is not immediately clear how a halt on loans from those countries would impact the Philippines.
Its Economic Planning Secretary, Ernesto Pernia, told Reuters in a text message that “no infrastructure projects” would be affected, “only some ODA grants”, he said, referring to Official Development Assistance.
Though the Philippines rejects the resolution itself, Duterte has not addressed whether or not he would allow U.N. representatives to conduct an investigation in the country if such a request is made.
His foreign minister, Teodoro Locsin, last week said that would not happen, calling the U.N. human rights experts “bastards” who had already made up their minds. (Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Hugh Lawson)