April 20, 2018 / 1:42 AM / 6 months ago

Philippines decries European Parliament's 'interference'

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines has denounced what it called interference in its internal affairs by the European Parliament, which urged the Southeast Asian country to end “extrajudicial killings” and halt plans to bring back the death penalty.

FILE PHOTO: Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano speaks during the closing ceremony of the 50th Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum (ARF) in Manila, Philippines August 8, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Philippine police have killed about 4,100 people since President Rodrigo Duterte took power in late June 2016 in what the authorities say were shootouts during anti-narcotics operations. Activists say many of the killings were executions, which police deny.

At least other 2,300 drug-related deaths have also occurred, at the hands of what police say are unknown assassins.

The European lawmakers, in a resolution on Thursday, condemned Philippine authorities for “trying to justify these murders with falsified evidence”, which Manila said was meddling and based on wrong information.

“The European Parliament has crossed a red line when it called for unwarranted actions against the Philippines,” Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement late on Thursday.

In the latest violence in the campaign against drugs, police announced the killing of 13 people and arrest of 46 in 49 anti-drug operations in Bulacan province, north of the capital Manila, in a span of 12 hours on Friday.

The European Parliament and its members have criticized the Philippines’ brutal anti-narcotics crackdown several times, infuriating Duterte, who has directed his frustration at the European Union, rather than its legislative branch.

The EU is an important source of development aid, commerce and investment for the Philippines.

European lawmakers also called on Manila to remove what they called human rights defenders from its list of people it considers “terrorists”, including Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

They also condemned “the intimidation and the abuse” of rights activists and journalists, and said Duterte’s push to reintroduce the death penalty was against the country’s international obligations.

‘INCONSISTENT’

Cayetano said the European Parliament’s resolution was based on “biased, incomplete and even wrong information and does not reflect the true situation on the ground”.

“In case the members of the European Parliament are not aware of it, may we remind them that their recommended actions already constitute interference in the affairs of a sovereign state,” he said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch applauded the European Parliament for adopting the resolution and for its support for international efforts to investigate the Philippine crackdown.

“It is a timely and forceful message from the EU parliamentarians putting President Duterte and his backers on notice - that continued grave abuses will come at a price,” a researcher for the rights group, Carlos Conde, said in a statement.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the European Parliament was criticizing what the EU supported financially.

“I find it inconsistent that the European Parliament will condemn the war against drugs, which is now also being financed partly by the European Union,” Roque said in a media briefing.

He was referring to 3.8 million euros ($4.7 million) in EU aid announced in March for government drug rehabilitation projects.

Additional reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel

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