MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said the European Union (EU) might as well 'go to hell' if it would not listen to the explanation of his special envoy to the bloc, former Senate President Edgardo Angara, about the country’s war on drugs.
In his latest tirade against the 28-nation bloc, Duterte said the EU was being ignorant when it continued to criticize the Philippines for its war on drugs without analyzing the situation.
“It appalls me to learn that they can be so stupid about it, almost an ignoramus. Is it not enough to put them on notice that there’s something terribly wrong here?” Duterte said in a speech in Malacañang.
“Pardon me, Senator Angara - I appointed him as [special] envoy to EU - I've been trying to explain to them, but I said to them, if they listen to you sir, fine, but if not, they can all go to hell.”
The President made the statement in the wake of the release of the EU's Annual Report on Human Rights And Democracy, which said the human rights situation in the Philippines had worsened in the second half of 2016, when Duterte initiated his war on drugs.
Malacañang downplayed the report, saying it was rehashed criticism against the President.
Duterte has been repeatedly slamming the EU for its criticism of his anti-narcotics campaign, calling it undue interference with Manila’s domestic affairs.
The firebrand leader has continued his tirades against the bloc even as some critics have warned of its implications on ties between the Philippines and the EU.
The administration earlier announced it would no longer accept conditional aid from the EU, later clarifying that the policy applied on all countries.
Earlier this year, the EU had said it was reviewing the Philippines' trade perks pre-conditioned on the country's compliance with international agreements, including human rights pacts.
The EU was the Philippines' fourth largest trading partner in 2016. Since December 2014, the Philippines has enjoyed enhanced trade preferences with the EU under the bloc's Generalized Scheme of Preferences plus (GSP+), a trade privilege that is tied to a country’s performance of its human rights obligations.
In a chance interview with reporters, Angara downplayed Duterte’s latest tirade against the bloc, only stressing that the EU is an important trade partner of the Philippines.
He also sought to temper Duterte’s harsh language, saying it was only directed towards certain critics of the government’s war on drugs who claim to represent the EU.
“They are not policy. You must take the President’s words [into] context. You contextualize it. The Philippines has remained democratic up to now,” Angara said.
“You take it in context and in the condition of the Philippines. It is a democracy, but we face up to a menace different from what Europe or the one the US is facing.”
Despite Duterte’s frequent outbursts against the EU, Angara said the bloc continues to be open for dialogue.
The former lawmaker, who visited EU parliamentarians in Brussels last month, earlier said the bloc was willing to help the Philippines "cope with the drug crisis and fight ISIS (Islamic State)."
He said the Philippine delegation received "no moralizing or lecturing" from the Europeans during the visit, adding that "the atmosphere was civil and the tone cooperative."