Presidential spokesman Panelo says Duterte considering cutting ties with Iceland; Foreign Affairs Secretary Locsin not for it

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Government officials are sending mixed messages about how the Philippines should respond to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) order to probe the bloody drug war. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said yesterday that Duterte is “seriously considering” cutting ties with the resolution’s main proponent Iceland, while Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. said that he never considered it.

“PRRD [President Rodrigo Roa Duterte] is seriously considering cutting diplomatic relations with Iceland,” Panelo said during the 80th-anniversary celebration of radio station dzRH at the Sofitel in Pasay City last night, according to The Philippine Star.

Duterte ally Senator Imee Marcos earlier urged the government to cut ties with the Nordic country “ASAP.”

This comes after the UNHRC approved a resolution that asked for steps to combat the numerous extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. Iceland submitted the resolution earlier this month and was backed by more than two dozen mainly European states.

Panelo criticized the resolution and its supporters during his speech yesterday, saying that it “demonstrates how the western powers are scornful of our sovereign exercise of protecting our people from the scourge of prohibited drugs that threaten to destroy the fabric of our society.”

He also said that the resolution is “grotesquely one-sided, outrageously narrow, and maliciously partisan.”

Panelo also previously said these in a written statement last week.

READ: Government official threatens VP Leni Robredo with impeachment for supporting UNHRC investigation on drug war

Because of the resolution’s approval, UNHRC High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet now has a year to prepare a comprehensive written report on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) reported that 6,600 drug suspects have been killed in anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016, to May 31, 2019. However, some say that the deaths are underreported, with the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights saying in December that the number could be as high as 27,000.

Panelo’s statements echo Duterte’s views on the issue, who said that Iceland does not understand the social, economic, and political problems in the Philippines.

READ: Former Duterte spokesman Harry Roque belittles UNHRC drug war resolution, calls international body ‘toothless tiger’

In a press briefing at the Malacañang Palace yesterday, Panelo said that he has nothing against the possibility of cutting ties with Iceland and will leave it up to the president to decide. He also said that he would rather have Foreign Affairs Secretary Locsin to address the issue.

However, in a tweet yesterday, Locsin said that he does not support the cutting of ties. He also downplayed the issue.

“I never considered for a second cutting any ties over this small matter,” he said.

While Locsin called the resolution’s approval a “travesty,” he said in an earlier statement that the Philippines plans to remain a member of the UNHRC.

Diplomatic ties between the Philippines and Iceland were formally established in February 1999. According to the Philippine Embassy based in Oslo, Norway, Filipinos who work in Iceland are mostly nurses and workers in offices and factories. The Philippines has no embassy in Iceland but maintains a consulate in its capital Reykjavik.

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