EU welcomes offer to monitor drug war ops: PH envoy

Danny Buenafe, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 26 2017 09:02 PM

The European Union is open to the Duterte administration's offer to install an independent monitoring center in the Philippines to track human rights violations, Manila's special envoy to the international bloc has said.

The Philippine delegation that appeared before the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium invited European parliamentarians to visit the Philippines to personally witness what the Filipino officials called a "respect for democracy" and see that that there are no state-sponsored killings under President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

Philippine special envoy to the EU Edgardo Angara said his suggestion to setup an EU monitoring center in the Philippines was met with positive feedback. 

He envisioned the center to track down alleged human rights violations in the Philippines and suggested that it be manned by local hires. 

"Very positive, very positive at ang sabi ng unang kausap namin --'yun ang in charge ng parang bureaucracy ng EU-- ay hinihintay lang nila ang reaksyon ng UN sa Geneva because 'yung UN Human Rights (Council) is based in Geneva, out of courtesy to a sister institution," said Angara.

The European bloc has been vocal in criticizing the administration's anti-narcotics campaign. 

During a visit to Manila in July, a delegation from the EU Parliament raised concerns over the 'deterioration' of the human rights situation in the Philippines. 

Last week, Duterte said the UN rights body should send representatives to police operations so they could monitor possible human rights violations.

The Philippine contingent's visit to the EU came after public backlash following separate brutal killings of 3 teen boys allegedly by Caloocan City police forces, and after the House of Representatives voted to initially allocate P1,000 to the Commission on Human Rights.

Duterte has vowed justice for the teen deaths and warned police against unlawful slays. The House has meanwhile restored the Commission's budget. 

Angara and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, who led the Philippine delegation in Brussels, reported that the entire Caloocan police force had been relieved and are now facing criminal investigation for their alleged involvement in the boys' killings.

Angara also said the Philippine Senate is not expected to pass the death penalty bill and the measure lowering the age of criminal liability to 9 years old from the current 15, both priority anti-crime measures opposed by the EU.

Lopez, for his part, said he was overwhelmed by what he felt was a new and friendlier approach by EU officials to help solve the Philippines' drug problem.

"Ang narinig namin kanina 'How can we help?' So ganun 'yung statement, I called 'yung attention nila, sabi ko 'yan 'yung phrase dapat talaga na kung magkaibigan, 'yan ang unang lumalabas, 'How can we help?,' hindi 'yung mag-i-intervene at makikialam o magle-lecture," he said.

This was the first time the Philippines sent a mission to the EU in an attempt to bridge the gap between conflicting views by Duterte and the Europeans on the drug issue.

The peace mission was prompted to make a pitch before the EU Parliament following some threats by parliamentarians to withdraw duty-free entry of about 6,000 Philippine products.

The Generalized System of Preferences, under which the Philippines was signatory to 27 UN international conventions, states that each country should have respect for labor, good governance, environment and human rights.

For Lopez and Angara, their presence in Brussels was a good start to renew the strong ties between the Philippines and the European Union.

Earlier, European Council President Donald Tusk agreed to visit the Philippines in November to attend the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.