by Philippine News Agency| September 24, 2019
MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte may review Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s proposal to exempt his agency from the suspension of loans from the 18 countries that supported the Iceland-sponsored United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution to probe the drug war, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
“I do not know if the proposal has reached President’s ears so let’s see,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
“The President is a very reasonable man. If it involves national security he might…or I do not know yet. We have to wait for his thoughts on the matter,” Panelo said.
On Monday, Lorenzana said that although the Department of National Defense (DND) will no longer accept grants, he might ask the President to exempt his agency because the memorandum order would affect the military’s modernization program.
“Oo, kasi order ni Presidente yun eh. Maaapektuhan ‘yung loans and grants. Pero ‘yung loans, siguro we might ask for exemption kung kinakailangan ma-exempt tayo sa directive ni Presidente (Yes. It’s because it is an order from the President. It might affect the loans as well as the grants, but as for the loans, we might ask, if necessary, for an exemption from the President’s directive),” Lorenzana said during the sidelines of the activation of the three multi-purpose attack crafts and four amphibious assault vehicles at the Philippine Navy headquarters in Roxas Boulevard, Manila on Monday.
Of the 18 countries covered with the suspension of loans and grants memorandum issued by the Chief Executive through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea last August 27, the Philippines is known to source military equipment and items from four nations which including Australia, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy.
Items acquired from these countries include the AW-109 combat utility and AW-159 anti-submarine helicopters from United Kingdom and Italy, and the C-295 medium transports from Spain and a possible soft loan grant from Australia to build the Navy’s six offshore patrol vessels.
The Defense chief earlier bared the prospect of a soft loan from Australia for the purchase of six offshore patrol vessels for the Philippine Navy.
“Let us wait for him (Duterte) to evaluate whatever recommendation the Secretary of National Defense will provide him,” Panelo said.
Other countries that supported Iceland’s resolution are Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Iceland, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Ukraine and Uruguay.
Panelo defended anew Duterte’s order shunning financial aid from the 18 countries calling it a “political statement.”
He reiterated that Duterte felt insulted by the resolution which “presupposes” that Philippine courts are not doing anything about the complaints and abuses related to the drug war.
“That’s a political statement. You don’t mess with this country with that kind of resolution,” Panelo said, stressing how Iceland expressed concern over the killing of drug suspects when it has legalized abortion.
“They are supporting a resolution coming from a country questioning the kind of governance of this country relative to the war on drugs yet this country sponsor is allowing murders, killings of unborn children. Kumbaga (It’s as if saying), what hypocrisy,” he added.
Asked if the memo is the President’s personal decision, Panelo said: “According to him, he immediately called –upon the height of the Iceland resolution — Secretary (Salvador) Medialdea to issue that memorandum.”
The Palace official said it was the President’s discretion not to consult with other Cabinet Secretaries before issuing the memo.
“He’s the President… that is his discretion. These are only alter egos of the President,” Panelo said.
Meanwhile, Panelo shrugged off Senator Francis Pangilinan’s remark urging the President to think twice about issuing the memo as it may affect overseas Filipino workers in those countries.
“He (Pangilinan) should also think twice before issuing such statement because when the President makes a decision, he has studied all aspects of the same,” Panelo said.
Not confined to loans
Panelo pointed out that despite the President’s memo, foreign relations between the Philippines and the 18 countries that backed the drug probe will not be affected.
“Walang epekto kasi yun namang relasyon natin (There is no affect because our relation) is not confined to loans. Pareho rin yun ng ating away (Just like our dispute) with China, hindi lang naman dun sa conflict natin, marami pang areas na puwede natin pag-usapan (we don’t just focus on our conflict, there are many other areas we can discuss),” Panelo said.
“Wala pa akong nakikitang (I haven’t seen any) adverse effect. Wala akong naririnig na (I haven’t heard any) reaction coming from them. Kung walang reaction sa kanila, ang tingin ko doon (If there’s no reaction from them, I guess), they’re not even offended by the move of the President,” he added.
The Palace official insisted that just because the President rejects the resolution to look into the drug war, doesn’t mean the Philippines will have problems in other areas.
“Tingin ko (I think), let us see how it develops,” he added.
On Monday, Panelo assured the suspension of financial assistance from the 18 countries will have no negative impact on the Philippine economy because it will not affect existing loans or grants which are already being implemented. (with reports from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)