EU lawmakers meet with Philippine senators on Duterte drug war

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 22 2023 04:53 PM | Updated as of Feb 22 2023 06:02 PM

Members of the European Parliament meet with Sen. Risa Hontiveros after meeting with other Philippine senators led by Sen. Francis Tolentino on Feb. 22, 2023. Sengkly Eslabra via Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News
Members of the European Parliament meet with Sen. Risa Hontiveros after meeting with other Philippine senators led by Sen. Francis Tolentino on Feb. 22, 2023. Sengkly Eslabra via Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Representatives from the European Parliament (EP) met with Philippine senators on Wednesday, with both parties maintaining their opposing positions on the Duterte adminstration's bloody drug war.

EP vice chairperson of the subcommittee on human rights Hannah Neumann told reporters that they had an "open and critical discussion" on the matter with their Philippine counterparts: Senators Francis Tolentino, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, JV Ejercito, and Robinhood Padilla, along with 2 Filipino ambassadors.

In the meeting, Neumann expressed the EP's "deep concern" about the extrajudicial killings that occurred during the drug war, maintaining that the cases must be probed by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“The position especially of the European Parliament has been quite clear that we were deeply concerned about the extra-judicial killings happening on the war on drugs. We see right now prosecutions starting, but the thing is it’s slow with at least 6,000 people killed in the war on drugs. Only 20 cases filed and three people convicted,” Neumann said.

“We, as the European Union are members of the Rome Statute. We support the ICC. And we see this as a potential to support the investigations into the killings. We clearly understand that the senators we met right now see this differently,” she added.

In response, Tolentino said that their group was able to "clearly state" the Philippine government’s position on the ICC. 

“Hinihingi natin ang kanilang respeto sa ginagawa ng ating bansa at pamunuan bilang isang sovereign state. Hindi tayo kabilang sa ICC. Ginagalang nila iyon. At nagkaroon man ng dialogue, hindi man mainitan, naipaliwanag natin yung ating posisyon,” Tolentino said.

(We are asking for their respect for what our country and leadership is doing as a sovereign state. We are not part of the ICC. They respect that. And through our dialogue, albeit not heated, we were able to explain our position.)

With Neumann in the Wednesday meeting were fellow parliamentarians Ryszard Czarnecki, Isabel Wiseler-Lima, Karsten Lucke and Miguel Urban Crespo.

European Union Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron also joined the delegation.


For his part, Sen. dela Rosa said their meeting with EP was "too intense."

“I have just attended the meeting with members of the EU Parliament. And the discussion was too intense that I cannot leave. I have to defend our sovereignty. You know these Europeans, they are trying to impose their standards upon us,” dela Rosa said.

“There was one EU Parliament member from Spain, na nagalit sya na bakit daw si Senator Estrada ay nag-author ng resolution protecting [former] President Duterte from the ICC investigation. Eh. Nag-react sya, medyo tumaas ang boses nya,” he continued. 

(He got mad because Senator Estrada authored a resolution protecting former President Duterte from the ICC investigation. He even raised his voice.)

Dela Rosa said he responded to the parliamentarian by asking him to respect Philippine sovereignty, citing the country's history as a former colony of Spain for over 300 years.

“Nakalimutan kong sabihin eh. Gusto ko sanang kantiyawan eh. You’ve been here in the Philippines for more than three centuries. You ruled the Philippines for more than three centuries. But you failed to conquer the Muslim Mindanao,” Dela Rosa said.

But Tolentino countered Dela Rosa's claims, saying the Spanish parliamentarian had an interpreter who had to raise his voice as he did not speak English.

“Wala namang taasan ng boses doon. I have to correct that,” Tolentino said.

Aside from the war on drugs, both parties also discussed proposed measures to help Filipinos affected by armed conflict, including compensation fund bills and the Marawi compensation bill.

As for the concerns of the Philippines, Tolentino raised the issue of 83 trafficked Filipinos in Belgium; truck drivers and other OFWs who were being hired in Europe on a “third-party” setup, which the senator called a clear violation of human rights.

The issue of abused Filipinas in the Middle East, and the rights of Filipino seamen were also mentioned during the meeting.

The case of former Sen. Leila de Lima was not mentioned in the meeting, Tolentino said.

“Although confidential na iyong mga details, iyong answer nila, it was a wide exchange of views to cover the entire spectrum of what is the purpose of their mission here,” Tolentino said.

“They (EU parliament) should respect us, in the same manner that we should respect them. That is the principle of reciprocity,” he added.

"They (delegation) respect our views. But as to whether they will accept that within their own perspective, that’s a different matter. But as part of community of nations, they respect that. And they should."

Meanwhile, Tolentino also noted that the European delegation was "happy" to know that there was no death penalty in the Philippines.

The delegation also reacted positively when Tolentino “reminded” them that the Philippine government “in five different occasions” of the UN General Assembly, supported Ukraine. 

Tolentino also said he would report to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri the minutes of their meeting with the EP.

The EP's visit to the country came days after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that the Philippines would not cooperate in the ICC's investigation in the Duterte drug war, saying the court has "no jurisdiction" in the country and the move was a "threat to our sovereignty."


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