President Rodrigo Duterte and VP Leni Robredo are seen in file photo at the closing ceremony of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting at the PICC. (Photo from Pool/Russell Palma)
MANILA, Philippines — The country’s two highest leaders don’t just belong to warring political parties. They, too, are on the opposite sides of the fence when it comes to issues concerning the European Union.
Successively, Vice Leni Robredo and President Rodrigo Duterte issued statements about the EU — one valuing the Philippines’ friendship with the union, the other assailing its alleged lack of respect for the country’s sovereignty.
Robredo on Tuesday, Oct. 17, during the EU-Philippines Business Summit held in Parañaque City, said the union’s friendship with the Philippines was important because “(it) goes beyond economics, trade, and aid.”
“We are grateful for your support and guidance in many aspects of our lives,” the Vice President said, adding that she was hoping that human rights, which is “currently a contentious issue” in the Philippines “will not extensively strain relations between my country and the European Union.”
EU’s deep concern over HR situation in PH
The EU earlier expressed its deep concern over the human rights situation in the Philippines in relation to the the killings under Duterte’s pet war on drugs campaign.
At the 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last month, the EU stressed “the importance of carrying out the fight against illegal drugs in full compliance with due process, national law and international human rights law.”
It added that it is “important” for the Philippines “to promptly and effectively” investigate “all cases of death” in the drug war “in an impartial and transparent manner, which ensures appropriate prosecution of those responsible.”
Duterte: EU doesn’t know how to respect sovereignty
But on Wednesday, Oct. 18, Duterte again hit the EU, saying the union was the one causing problems because it allegedly didn’t know how to respect Philippine sovereignty.
“Kaya ko ‘yan sila minumura kasi [The reason why I’m curing them is because] they do not know how to respect sovereignty,” the President said during his speech at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
The chief executive complained against the union in relation to the aid it extends to the country, which Duterte said were allegedly fraught with conditions beneficial to the EU but detrimental to the Philippines.
“‘Yon bang gaya niyan, magbigay ka ng in the form of assistance or grant, the Philippines is given this amount but at the same time, i-specify nila na para ito sa Bureau of Fire kasi magbigay sila ng truck. Pero, gusto nila bilihin mo ‘yong truck sa kanila,” the President said.
“Eh kung magbigay ka ng grant at gusto mo ito bilihin mo ‘yong truck ko, kukuha ka rin ng spare parts sa akin, nagmukha pa akong philanthropist, nag-mukhang gago ang Pilipino, kikita ka pa sa akin balang araw kasi ‘yong truck na ‘yan, may masira talaga diyan,” he added.
Duterte said the EU was about to offer another aid but when Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez asked him about it, he told him he would reject the assistance.
“They are about to make an offer. Nagtanong si Secretary Dominguez, sabi ko, ‘No, I will not accept it..’ Hindi na bale mag-hirap tayo. Sabi ko, sabihin ko sa mga tao, eh magtiis tayo. Eh pobre tayo eh,” the President said.
“That’s very stupid of some public officials to talk of aid as if it is a matter of survival of our country if we do not accept it,” he added.
But for Robredo, it is important for the Philippines and the EU “to tear down walls and find ways to collaborate better” as cooperation would help make the country and the union’s business agenda “serve those who have been left behind by progress as well as enhance economic growth.”