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Human rights advocates alarmed by Duterte's rejection of EU aid

GMA News Online logo GMA News Online 5/19/2017 Tordecilla, Jaemark
Europe and PHL flag composite © Provided by GMA News Online Europe and PHL flag composite

Advocates on Thursday raised the alarm over the Duterte administration's move to refuse development aid from the European Union (EU), saying it signaled a disregard for formal recommendations from the international community about human rights.

Rose Trajano, secretary general of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), said the country’s notice to the EU seems to be a “premonition” that it will not take the recommendations not only from EU, but from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

“Sa isang banda, baka puwede na po natin itong premonition o i-anticipate na natin na posibleng ang mga rekomendasyon hinggil sa pagpatay at iba pang violations ay hindi tatanggapin ng Pilipinas,” Trajano said in a press briefing on Thursday.

“Kasi pinangunahan na nila, ‘Wala na kayong puwedeng sabihin sa akin kasi ‘di na kami tatanggap ng aid ninyo, kaya wala kayong karapatang mag-impose ng mga rekomendasyon sa amin,” she added.

In its Universal Periodic Review Working Group’s report on the Philippines released last week, 45 of the 47 UNHRC member-states called on the government to end extrajudicial killings and withdraw its plan to revive death penalty.

Trajano also raised concerns that blocking off aid from EU will affect sectors in the country, including trade.

The Philippines currently has an agreement with the EU called the Generalized System of Preference Plus (GSP+), which grants the former zero duties on some 6,274 locally-made products.

The foreign body has also given the Philippines about 250 million Euros ($278.73 million) worth of grants, mostly allocated to Muslim communities.

“Malaking tulong po ‘yan sa Pilipinas … Sa ganitong punto na very critical ang EU kasi isa po ito sa grupo ng mga bansa na napakataas ang pagpapahalaga sa karapatang pantao. At kaakibat ng GSP+ ‘yung 27 international conventions, kasama na ‘yung sa human rights,” she said.

For his part, In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) spokesman Ellecer Carlos said Duterte and other officials under him “are already known for double speak.”

“So hindi tayo sure, maaaring magbago. Hindi natin alam kung ito ay knee-jerk reaction lamang,” he added.

PAHRA and iDEFEND called for Thursday’s press conference, after sending a team to Geneva to participate in side events at the UN Universal Periodic Review.

They slammed former Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, the newly appointed foreign affairs chief, for his “erroneous” report on the state of human rights in the Philippines.

“What was made clear in the UPR is that the government could not fool the international human rights community, and its attempts to justify the war on drugs failed to change the tone of the dialogue that followed,” Carlos said.

“By ‘sticking to its guns,’ the government wasted an opportunity for productive interaction with the Human Rights Council towards a more realistic and effective approach to the drug issue in the country,” he added.

Trajano, for her part, hit out at Duterte for Cayetano’s new appointment “despite his failed UPR performance,” saying this “indicate(s) the policy direction of the administration to deploy EJK apologists and fake fact-mongers worldwide.” —JST, GMA News

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