FORMER Ambassador to the United Nations Lauro Baja yesterday said the European Union Parliament was meddling in Philippine affairs when it threatened to revoke Manila’s trading privileges with the European Union if it will not implement international conventions on human rights.
But he also said there is “no reason” for the Philippines to be duly-concerned. He said the EU Parliament is a “deliberative body.”
“What they issued is a declaratory resolution, which we are entitled to do,” he said in an interview with radio dzBB.
The EU Parliament voted 626 to 7 with 52 abstention last Thursday, reminding Manila it could take away its trade benefits under the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus which allows the country to export some 6,000 products tariff-free to the 27-member EU bloc.
It said it could start the process of taking away the trade privileges if the unless the Philippines improves its human rights situation, especially amid the alleged deterioration of press freedom in the country, the alleged continued extrajudicial killings, and number of deaths attributed to the continued anti-illegal drug campaign.
Malacañang has rejected the resolution., saying the lawmakers were influenced by misinformation of the administration’s opponents.
Baja, Baja who served as the country’s permanent envoy to the United Nations from 2003 to 2006, said Philippine institutions are fully functioning.
“Ang sabi nga natin, all the legal processes in the country are working. We are following the rule of law. Let us just take it for what it is,” Baja said.
“Malinaw na panghihimasok ito sa domestic affairs ng isang bansa. There is no doubt that this resolution is an intervention (this is a clear interference in the domestic affairs of a country),” he added.
Baja said the Philippines can settle the issue through dialogues with the EU.
He also questioned the timing of the resolution which came as the country and the rest of the world are grappling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Baja said the EU has its own problems to solve.
SUPPORT FOR DE LIMA
Minority senators thanked the European Parliament for adopting a resolution for the release and dropping of drug charges against Sen. Leila de Lima.
In a statement, Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros said the European Parliament’s call is an addition to the growing bodies of respected persons and institutions here and abroad, which condemn De Lima’s arrest and incarceration as baseless, and the criminal charges against her as nothing more than politically-motivated fabrications.
“The resolution should also remind the current administration that the international community will not turn a blind eye and do nothing towards government’s attacks against the fundamental freedoms of Filipinos, and the severe deterioration of the human rights situation in the country during the past four years,” they said.
In the 627-7 voted, the European Parliament also called for De Lima’s release and a review of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
The joint resolution that was submitted by several political groups within European Parliament also called for adequate security and fair trial for De Lima, as they urged the dismissal of the charges against her which they said were “politically motivated.” It also said the European Union should closely monitor the case.
The parliamentarians also condemned the extrajudicial killings in the country as they called on the Philippine government to focus its anti-illegal drugs campaign to large-scale drug trafficking rather than going after small-scale consumers, and to build rehabilitation centers.
The European Parliament also called on Philippine authorities to conduct “impartial and meaningful investigations” and bring perpetrators to justice. It also urged the European Union to support such investigations.
The minority senators said, “We stand with the European Parliament in urging government to free Senator De Lima and end her continued detention, and to stop extrajudicial killings, human rights abuses and other acts which have victimized and harmed countless Filipinos.
As long as Senator De Lima remains languishing in jail under such dubious charges and unjust circumstances, the current administration cannot truly claim that it is promoting justice and upholding the rule of law in the country,” they said.
Earlier, de Lima said the parliamentarians’ resolution is an expected consequence of the Duterte administration’s refusal to heed calls to end summary executions by the country’s agents.
De Lima has been jailed at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame since February 2017 due to allegations she benefited from the illegal drugs trade at the New Bilibid Prisons when she was justice secretary during the past administration. De Lima consistently denied the allegations, saying she is a victim of political persecution.
Amid the EU Parliament’ calls, the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) yesterday its “Gramo Dos: Unipormado” documentary against illegal drugs.
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Gramos Dos is the second documentary program of the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the government produced by PCOO with the Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“As the problem of illegal drugs remains significant, even during a pandemic, we at the PCOO will continue to intensify our information dissemination against it,” said Andanar recognizing that illegal drugs use and trade continue despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said while the fight against COVID-19 remains a priority of the Duterte administration, police continued to encounter illegal drugs activities.
The 40-minute documentary features the lives of policemen who involved in the campaign against illegal drugs and the risks they face during operations. The PNP said that as of June, 52 policemen have been killed and 153 injured in drug-related operations.
The documentary airs in government stations PTV-4 and IBC-13 and is posted on the PCOO’s social media pages and other affiliate pages.
The first documentary, titled “Gramo,” that was launched last year focused on achievements and challenges of the anti-illegal drugs campaign. — With Raymond Africa and Jocelyn Montemayor