MANILA — Malacañang allayed fears that President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to suspend negotiations for and signing of all loan and grant agreements from the 18 countries that voted to approve an Iceland-sponsored United Nations Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution calling for an investigation on the country’s anti-drug campaign will have a negative impact on the Philippine economy.
“We assure the nation and its citizenry that this directive will not have a negative and significant impact on the country,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement on Monday.
Citing Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez II, Panelo said there will be no negative impact because it will not affect existing loans or grants which are already being implemented.
Panelo said all proposed engagements with the 18 countries, except for one small project loan in the amount of EUR21 million, are technical assistance grants and will not greatly affect the government’s Build, Build, Build infrastructure program.
He explained that multilateral development financial institutions and other bilateral partners have already signified their intention to finance the EUR21 million.
The Palace official said the rates offered by said countries are no better than the rates already offered by multilateral development financial institutions and bilateral development partners.
Meanwhile, he rejected claims made by critics that the President’s decision to shun financial assistance is “ill-advised” noting that the Chief Executive would never put the nation’s dignity over monetary aid.
“The position of PRRD has always been clear and consistent: He will not compromise the nation’s dignity over any amount of foreign loan, or even aid or grant,” Panelo said.
“In fact, the President has rejected in previous occasions offers of assistance with any condition that would interfere with our domestic policies. This policy remains unchanged. And it will not waver,” he added.
Earlier, Dominguez bared that the total pipeline that will be affected by Duterte’s ban will include the USD109.41-million Metro Manila Bus Rapid Transit Project.
Meanwhile, Panelo clarified why he initially denied that Duterte issued the order explaining that the President “momentarily forgot” about it.
He said Duterte himself called for it “at the height of the Iceland resolution” but somehow had a “lapse in memory.”
“It was not I who is denying. When I asked him he said, ‘no, I did not.’ Apparently, as I said, he might have forgotten momentarily. So, when I asked him again he said, ‘yes I remember calling the Secretary about it,’” Panelo said in an interview over ANC.
“That is more on lapse in memory a few minutes, because when I asked him again, he said, ‘yes I did.’ But what is important is that memo exists and it is maintained,” he added.
Panelo pointed out that Duterte initially denied it because despite having made the order, it was issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
He stressed that Duterte issued the order because he felt “insulted” by the resolution which called for a probe into the drug war.
“I asked him, ‘why did you issue that memo, Mr. President?’ He said, ‘this country is insulted of that kind of Iceland resolution and we cannot allow this country to be insulting us. A country who condemns allegedly our slaying of certain victims and yet it allows abortion of unborn children up to less than 6 months old,’” Panelo said.
In a Palace briefing, Panelo explained that the Iceland resolution “presupposes” that Philippine courts are not doing anything about the complaints and abuses.
“We have been prosecuting. In fact, every death arising from police operations on drugs is automatically subject to administrative and criminal prosecution,” he said.
Panelo also reiterated Duterte’s earlier remark slamming Iceland for being concerned about the alleged slaying of suspected criminals when the country legalized abortion.
“He cannot comprehend what Iceland is so concerned about the alleged brutal slaying of suspected criminals which occur because the lives of those people who are enforcing the law are endangered and yet it has a law that allows killing, murdering unborn children,” Panelo said.
Not a knee-jerk reaction
Panelo, meanwhile, rejected the remark made by Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez who described Duterte’s order to shun all financial assistance from the 18 countries as a “knee-jerk reaction.”
“‘Yun na ang response namin na hindi totoo ‘yun; ang nag-knee-kneejerk siya, sila (That’s our response, that it’s no true; that it was a knee-jerk reaction) They don’t know the facts, they don’t even know kung mayroong (if there are) existing loans,” Panelo said.
The Palace official denied that Duterte would also shun other countries that would also support any probe into the drug war in the future.
“Kapag nangyari iyon (When it happens), I’ll respond to you. Puro ispekulasyon lang iyon eh (Right now, they’re all speculation),” Panelo said.
For the meantime, Palace will focus on countries that voted in favor of the Iceland-sponsored resolution.
The 18 countries that voted in support of the drug war probe were Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay. Azer Parrocha / PNA – northboundasia.com