MANILA, Philippines -- The video message of Vice President Leni Robredo to an anti-drugs meeting, in which she criticizes the Duterte administration's anti-narcotics campaign, has not soured the country's relations with other nations, acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said Wednesday.
“Our relationship with other countries is still very good. In fact, I haven’t seen any change in that,” Manalo said during a televised press conference in Thailand, where President Rodrigo Duterte is on a visit.
In the video, shown at a side event of the UN Commission on Narcotics Drugs’ 60th session in Vienna on March 16, Robredo said: “We are now looking at some very grim statistics: since July last year, more than 7,000 people have been killed in summary executions.”
The same day, in Manila, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano filed an impeachment complaint against Duterte, citing among other alleged offenses the thousands of deaths in the course of the war against drugs.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez linked the two events together, claiming these were part of a destabilization plot against the government and threatening to file his own impeachment complaint against Robredo. Lawyer Oliver Lozano and Mechor Chaves also have a draft complaint of their own to Alvarez in the hope he would endorse it.
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation chairperson Andrea Domingo also took exception with what she called Robredo’s lies.
But Manalo said Robredo’s message has had no effect on Duterte’s visits to Myanmar and Thailand, which “have strengthened our bilateral ties.”
“All countries are eagerly awaiting the Philippines’ chairmanship at the ASEAN Summit. Our relationship has never been better,” he added.
In a separate statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs stressed that it supported the country’s official participation in the UN-CND’s meeting in Vienna, which was attended by officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Dangerous Drugs Board and Philippine Permanent Mission to the UN.
It noted that the side event at which Robredo’s message was shown “was not part of the official proceedings” and “did not reflect the stand of participating governments.” It added that such side events “provide an opportunity for member states, UN entities and NGOs to discuss themes in parallel to the official UN meetings or conferences where the NGOs are not involved.”
The DFA also stressed that “the Philippines respects fundamental freedoms, including the right of everyone to speak freely on any topic” even as it noted that “freedom of expression is a right that comes with the responsibility to ensure that facts are verified, and unfounded allegations from questionable sources are avoided.”
Nevertheless, it said, “the government is investigating the veracity of allegations of drug-related extra-judicial killings, which are being undertaken precisely in strict adherence to due process and the rule of law,” a message the DFA said was “conveyed by the Philippine Permanent Mission to the UN in Vienna in a statement delivered at that same side event after the Vice President’s remarks were shown.”
“The statement emphasized that ‘the Philippine Government has pursued a balanced and holistic approach to the drug issue in all its facets -- prevention, education, enforcement, rehabilitation, and reintegration. The five pillars of supply reduction, demand reduction, alternative development, civic awareness and regional and international cooperation inform the Philippines’ mission against illicit drugs’,” the DFA said.