US aid package to RP withheld over HR concerns
Rody gov’t mulls UN’s EKJ probe cancellation
By Ted Tuvera
and Joyce Rocamora
The United States has not renewed a major aid package to the Philippines because of “significant concerns” about the rule of law under President Rodrigo Duterte, the US Embassy said yesterday.
“This decision reflects the Board’s significant concerns around rule of law and civil liberties in the Philippines,” embassy spokeswoman Molly Koscina said in a statement emailed to Agence France Presse after the country was not selected for a new Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant.
The previous five-year grant, which was worth $433.9 million, expired in May this year.
Mr. Duterte and his government are mulling over the cancellation of the United Nation (UN)’s Human Rights probe.
The US government set up the MCC to promote economic growth and reduce poverty around the world.
However, countries can only qualify if they “demonstrate a commitment to just and democratic governance, investments in its people, and economic freedom,” according to the corporation’s website.
The US is a vocal critic of Duterte’s war on drugs which has claimed more than 5,000 lives since he took office nearly six months ago.The criticism, including from President Barack Obama, has severely strained ties between the longtime allies.
Koscina said the corporation’s board decided to withhold a vote on whether to reselect the Philippines because of the rights concerns, although it could still be considered in the future.
“MCC will continue to monitor unfolding events in the Philippines and underscores that all country partners are expected to maintain eligibility, which includes not just a passing scorecard but also a demonstrated commitment to the rule of law, due process and respect for human rights,” she said.
In a statement, MCC Chief Executive Officer Dana Hyde said their agency maximizes advocacy to fight poverty and transform people’s lives by partnering with developing countries “that meet rigorous standards for good governance, from fighting corruption to respecting the rights of women and the rule of law.”
At its quarterly meeting on December 13, the MCC awarded Burkina Faso, Sri Lanka and Tunisia with new compacts defined with five-year duration grants each as efforts to encourage economic growth and reduce poverty.
Among the reselected countries, the MCC voted approval for Cote d’Ivoire, Mongolia, Nepal and Senegal to continue developing their compacts.
It also selected Kosovo and Timor-Leste to develop MCC threshold programs, and reselected Togo to continue developing its threshold program.
Executive Director of Institute for Political and Electoral Reform Ramon Casiple said this was not surprising at all.
“It is expected from the US since MCC, from its inception, has a political agenda,” the political analyst said, adding that under the transition to Trump administration, “it is hedging its bet.”
While the move was expected, Casiple doubts that any major effect on the Philippines would follow.
“MCC aid does not have enough clout to change policy,” Casiple said
UN HR probe up for cancellation
In Singapore, the Philippine government is seriously mulling the cancellation of the UN human rights commission’s probe on extra judicial killings (EJK) attributed to the administration’s war on drugs due to its “obvious bias” in demonizing President Duterte, a senior Palace official said.
In an interview yesterday midnight, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the international body’s rejection of the President’s conditions during their supposed visit in Manila in the first quarter of 2017 allegedly goes to show that they have made up their decisions already even before conducting their mission.
“Their manner of rejecting the President’s proposed conditions after their investigations bares their obvious bias against the Presidentand their apparent guilt of having a conclusion already,” Panelo, who is part of Mr. Duterte’s delegation in his state visit here om Singapore, told the Daily Tribune.
“There is really a motive to prove their unfounded allegations, their theories to save themselves from a definite humiliation,” the President’s top lawyer added.
Panelo reiterated that the Philippine President’s conditions do not intervene in the independence of the UN body’s fact-finding mission, saying that Mr. Duterte only wants to verify their findings.
“There’s nothing wrong with President Duterte’s terms for them. What’s wrong with verifying their bodies of evidence? Their facts? Their sources?” he said.
The President’s lawyer also assailed the UN observers of being “misinformed and deceived by media stories.”
“These critics are believing only in what they believe. And sometimes mere hearsay is truth to them already. They are not aware of the good things that majority of Filipinos are proud of today because of the war against drugs,” Panelo expounded.
Based on the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) latest count, there are 6,095 killings related to the administration’s no nonsense crackdown of the narcotics industry since Mr. Duterte’s first day in Malacañang: 2,102 suspected drug personalities killed in police operations as of December 14 and 3,993 victims of extrajudicial or vigilante-style killings as of December 12.
Months back, UN human rights special rapporteur Agnes Callamard was invited by the Philippine government to see for herself the supposed human rights violations under the six-month old Duterte administration on the condition that they should be open for the Chief Executive’s questioning.
In a previous report, Callamard told the Tribune through e-mail that their investigation must follow the rules or standards listed in the UN Special Procedures Mechanisms for fact finding missions.
But even if Mr. Duterte’s chief legal counsel Panelo is still extending the Palace’s invitation’s to UN rapporteurs, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Perfecto Yasay insisted yesterday that the Philippines will not open its doors to probers unless they submit to the administration’s demands.
“If they will not comply with the conditions of our president regarding their visit to the Philippines to validate their claims, then the trip will not push through. They cannot come here,” Yasay told reporters Wednesday in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.
But Yasay clarified that the government is not actually canceling it, explaining that their failure to submit to Mr. Duterte’s terms jeopardizes their chance to conduct their probe.
“We have not canceled it. It is up to Callamard to agree and comply with the conditions imposed by President Duterte in inviting her to visit the Philippines,” the Foreign Affairs secretary told reporters.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) yesterday has maintained that the government’s call for the United Nations (UN) to conduct their independent investigation on the spate of alleged extrajudicial killings in the country amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, “still stands,” with the set conditions also intact.
The statement came after Secretary Yasay revealed that no indications suggest that Special Rapporteur Callamard would comply with the guidelines.
“If they will not comply with the conditions of our President regarding their visit to the Philippines to validate their claims, then the trip will not push through. They cannot come here,” he was quoted as saying on the sidelines of Duterte’s state visit in Cambodia.
According to DFA Assistant Secretary Charles Jose, “the invitation to Special Rapporteur Callamard to visit Philippines still stands.”
However, he cleared that it is up to her “to agree and comply” with the conditions imposed by President Duterte in inviting her to visit Manila.
Under this public discussion, the President stressed that Callamard must be subject for questioning— by him, the media and the public.
While Callamard, in a briefing note released by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, accepted the invitation, going as far as providing specific timeline for the trip, no determined consensus on the Terms of Agreement (TOR) has been released by both sides.
She expressed her commitment to conduct the joint fact-finding visit in the first quarter of 2017, however, DFA reiterated that as long as there’s no standing agreement TOR between the UN and the Philippines, the date cannot be confirmed yet.
Panelo confirms Rody
killed a criminal
Panelo also confirmed that Mr. Duterte has indeed killed a criminal but sees nothing wrong with such an incident.
“Yes, the President was able to shoot somebody before in Davao City. It was in an encounter, which is why there is nothing wrong with it,” Panelo said.
Mr. Duterte openly admitted days back that he “personally killed drug suspects” as he liked joining Police operations when he was the Mayor of Davao City.
For the record, the Tribune sought UN special rapporteur Callamard’s comments regarding the Philippine government’s latest statement.
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur operates under the United Nations HR Council, together with the other UN Special Procedures Mechanisms.
She cited that “The Special Rapporteur meets with government and other public officials at the national and local level. The Special Rapporteur also holds meetings with various non-governmental organizations, representatives of international or regional organizations, the diplomatic community, victims, witnesses, detainees, and the Media. The Special Rapporteur conducts visits to places of detention. Visits are conducted in the capital and relevant regions of the concerned country.”
In a letter addressed to Callamard dated September 26, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea dared her to submit to President Duterte’s own way of prosecution.
“Since it is this administration that is maligned as being behind these extrajudicial killings, due process requires that the President of the Philippine Republic, be given the opportunity to propound his own questions which have been nagging him for some time,” Medialdea addressed Callamard.
“I suppose that that would further fortify his right to due process which requires that the party against whom a charge is leveled, is accorded the opportunity to propound his own questions to whomever he deems appropriate, including your good self,” the senior Palace official added.
The Executive Secretary questioned the UN commission on why it keeps on focusing on the Philippines as its target since there are other countries where extrajudicial killings are also rampant.
“After all, the party charged is entitled to know the motive for the investigation, and why the focus is on the Philippines when there are other nations responsible for the death of innocent and defenseless individuals elsewhere in the world,” he said.
“Those are extrajudicial killings too, are they not?” Medialdea added as a punch line. With AFP