MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday said the claims made by Vice President Leni Robredo at a side event of the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs need verification.
“The Philippines respects fundamental freedoms, including the right of everyone to speak freely on any topic. However, freedom of expression is a right that comes with the responsibility to ensure that facts are verified, and unfounded allegations from questionable sources are avoided,” the DFA said in a statement.
“In this regard, elements in the Vice President's side event statement need to be verified, as already earlier stated by the Presidential Spokesperson on the matter.”
Robredo drew flak from aides and supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte after she made claims of irregularities in the government’s war on drugs in a video played at one of the side events of the annual meeting.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez even threatened to lead an impeachment case against Robredo for supposedly tarnishing Philippines' reputation.
Robredo, through her legal adviser Barry Gutierrez, however said said the impeachment threat was baseless, arguing that “truth-telling is not an impeachable offense.”
UN SIDE EVENT
The DFA noted that the side event where Robredo’s video was played was just one of around 100 side events and numerous exhibitions organized by non-government organizations during the 60th session of the UN-CND.
It explained that the Philippines’ official delegation to the annual meeting was led by high-level government officials from the Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), and the Philippine Permanent Mission to the UN in Vienna.
According to the DFA, the side event where Robredo’s video was played was “not part of the official proceedings of the 60th Session of the UN-CND and did not reflect the stand of participating governments.”
“In the UN context, side events, or activities organized outside the formal program of official UN meetings, provide an opportunity for Member States, UN entities and NGOs to discuss themes in parallel to the official UN meetings or conferences where the NGOs are not involved,” the DFA said.
In the video, Robredo revealed the so-called "palit-ulo" scheme, wherein authorities would supposedly take a family member instead in case the original person on the drug list cannot be found.
"They told us of the 'palit-ulo scheme' which literally means exchange heads where the wife or husband or relative of a person in a so-called drug list will be taken if the person himself could not be found," Robredo explained.
Amid Robredo’s claims, DFA assured the government was investigating allegations of extrajudicial killings linked to the war on drugs.
“This was conveyed by the Philippine Permanent Mission to the UN in Vienna in a statement delivered at that same side event after the Vice President's remarks were shown,” the DFA said.
“The statement emphasized that ‘the Philippine Government has pursued a balanced and holistic approach to the drug issue in all its facets --- prevention, education, enforcement, rehabilitation, and reintegration. The five pillars of supply reduction, demand reduction, alternative development, civic awareness and regional and international cooperation inform the Philippines' mission against illicit drugs.’”