MANILA - State departments were ordered to reject loans and grants from 18 countries that backed an inquiry into the Philippine war on drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman said Monday, after an initial denial of the instruction that he said was due to the Chief Executive's "lapse of memory."
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said last week that Duterte "has not issued any memorandum suspending loans and negotiations" involving 18 member-countries of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which in July approved Iceland's resolution to compile a report on Manila's 3-year crackdown.
"A memo was issued by Executive Secretary [Salvador] Medialdea on the matter," Panelo told ANC.
"The question asked to me by the media was whether or not the President issued a memorandum... When I asked him, he said 'No, I did not.' He might have forgotten momentarily. When I asked him again, he said, 'Yes, I remember calling the Secretary about it,'" he added.
Asked if the mix-up was due to ignorance of protocol, the official said, "No, that's more of lapse of memory."
Panelo later clarified that of the 18 countries, only the UK has an existing loan arrangement with Manila amounting to 21 million euros that "will not affect our economy."
Panelo also said Duterte told him that, "This country (Philippines) is insulted by that kind of Iceland resolution and we cannot allow this country who is insulting us, a country who condemns allegedly our slaying of certain victims yet it allows abortion of unborn children up to less than 6 months old."
"There are other bilateral partners of us or other institutions that are offering the same grant... Other grants that are being offered are more on technical assistance so it will not affect this, the infrastructure of the government," he said.
Panelo said he did not know which countries offered the alternative grants, adding that the information came from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.
Duterte's anti-narcotics drive has killed "less than 6,000," said his spokesperson.
The 2018 World Report of New York-based Human Rights Watch pegged the number of deaths at some 12,000 drug suspects, including those slain by police and unknown assassins supposedly inspired by the anti-drug campaign.
"They're getting that out of thin air," Panelo said of figures from rights monitors.
About 8 in 10 Filipinos are satisfied with the drug war, according to an opinion poll released over the weekend.