MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte reassured Russia on his government's treatment of 2 Russian drug suspects to strengthen ties with newfound ally, Moscow, Malacañang said Thursday.
"Kapangyarihan ng Presidente na maging chief architect ng foreign policy. Iyan po ay legal at walang basehan ang pula na special treatment ito," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told DZMM.
"Ito po ay isang binitawang salita upang mapalapit po ang ating relasyon sa bansang Russia," he added.
(It is within the President's power to act as the chief architect of our foreign policy. That is legal and there is no basis to remarks that this equates to special treatment. He made that statement so we could be closer to Russia.)
The Commission on Human Rights had cautioned Malacañang against giving "special treatment" to the Russian suspects Yuri Kirdyushkin and Anastasia Novopashina who were caught with cocaine in separate incidents at Manila airport last year.
Duterte discussed their plight in a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev late Monday on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit.
"I would just like to say that we have a working functional justice system here and they will get a fair trial and that they will be detained in a comfortable house," Duterte told Medvedev, according to an official transcript.
"Whether (the allegations are) true or not, we will find out but I will see to it that they are treated fairly and no additional stress on their person that will happen.
Roque said the CHR should be fair, citing the case of Senator Leila de Lima, who is detained in a police camp.
"Dapat maging patas din ang CHR. Kung sasabihin nilang dapat sa ordinaryong jail habang dinidinig ang kasong drug trafficking, that's equally applicable to someone like Leila de Lima," he said.
(The CHR should be fair. If they insist that those facing drug trafficking charges should be detained at an ordinary jail, that's equally applicable to someone like Leila de Lima. )
De Lima is accused of receiving million in drug payoffs from convicted crime lords, which she denied.
Duterte on Monday thanked Russia for supplying guns and other weapons that he said helped defeat extremists in Marawi, as ties between Manila and Moscow continued to improve.