BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Another Cabinet member slammed Vice President Leni Robredo and other critics of President Rodrigo Duterte, saying their outspokenness against the bloody war on drugs could hurt trade agreements with other countries.
Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno made the remarks on the sidelines of the 15th Meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Senior Officials Responsible for Information at the SMX Convention Center in Bacolod City on Wednesday, March 22.
“We stand to lose many things. This is the consequence of what they are doing to the President,” said Sueno. “This is being propagated by many sectors in the government and recently by VP [Robredo].”
The chief of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said, in particular, that the Philippines could lose 27 trade agreements with the European Union (EU). These deals, he said, include a condition to uphold human rights.
“And our government is now accused of violating [the condition of] human rights in these 27 trade agreements,” Sueno said.
“It means they (European countries) will impose taxes on our products. This will make our farmers suffer because this will be charged to them by European countries as a sanction to the Philippines. Many countries in Europe are importing products from the country,” he added.
Aside from Sueno, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) Chairperson Andrea Domingo and Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo have also spoken out against Robredo’s criticism of the drug war. Domingo said investors shouldn’t believe Robredo, while Teo said the Vice President should “tone down” her remarks.
Duterte vs EU
The EU, however, has long expressed concern over the extrajudicial killings linked to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
Then last October, he dared the EU and the US to withdraw their aid, saying the Philippines can “survive” without foreign assistance. (READ: What Typhoon Yolanda foreign aid looks like without US, EU, and UN)
His most recent rant against the EU was last Sunday, March 19, when he told the European Parliament to mind their own business. The European Parliament had criticized Duterte’s push for the revival of the death penalty. (READ: Duterte’s tough talk and what it could mean for US, EU investments)
Duterte, however, said back in September that his mouth “cannot bring down” the country.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella also said earlier this month that the Philippine government is unfazed by “threats” from international organizations such as the EU.
The European Parliament also drew the Philippine government’s ire last week after it approved a resolution calling for the “immediate release” of detained Senator Leila de Lima, one of Duterte’s fiercest critics. Duterte himself accused De Lima of facilitating the illegal drug trade in the national penitentiary.
Abella responded that the European Parliament should respect the Philippine government’s handling of De Lima’s case, and maintained that the charges against the senator are not politically motivated.
On Wednesday, Sueno said there are reports that the allegations against the President are part of a supposed move to free De Lima.
“These accusations against the President surfaced to force him to free the senator from prison, according to our intel,” the DILG chief said.
“[But] I saw his political will and commitment. He is committed to really stamp out the drug problem in the country. He’s not afraid of anything. His objective is to win the war on drugs.”
But last Sunday, the President himself dismissed rumors of a destabilization plot against him, saying it’s just “publicity.”
Earlier this month, Senator Francis Pangilinan, a member of the minority, also said Duterte appointees are the ones “destabilizing” the government, not the opposition. – Rappler.com