Palace claims EU, CHR invited to SONA 2017
MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella claims the European Union and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) were invited to President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday, July 24.
"They were actually invited but apparently they declined," Abella said on Thursday, July 27, during a Palace news briefing.
He said that it was the House of Representatives that sent out invitations. He said staff from the lower chamber assured the Palace that the officials were invited.
But CHR chairman Jose Luis Martin "Chito" Gascon himself told Rappler that he did not receive an invitation to the SONA. A highly-placed source said the EU did not receive an invitation as well.
It is tradition for the EU Delegation, as a member of the diplomatic corps, and the CHR head to be invited and to attend the SONA since it is the Philippine President's report on his administration's accomplishments and plans.
The EU Parliament and CHR are both critical of Duterte administration's drug war and its bid to reimpose the death penalty.
The CHR has condemned killings being linked to the Duterte administration's drug war, prompting threats from the President that he would abolish the constitutional commission. Abella clarified on Thursday that the President apparently just said this out of frustration.
The EU Parliament has criticized the extrajudicial killings linked to the drug war, prompting the President to flash the middle finger to EU lawmakers in two public addresses.
Days before the SONA, a delegation of EU lawmakers visited in jail one of Duterte's fiercest critics, detained Senator Leila de Lima.
This is the first time that the EU was not invited to the SONA, the Rappler source said.
The EU – a union of 28 countries, including France, Denmark, and Italy – was the Philippines' 4th largest trading partner in 2016.
The EU is also the 4th largest source of remittances from overseas Filipino workers, contributing around 10% to the Philippines' gross domestic product. (READ: FAST FACTS: How important is the EU to the Philippines?) – Rappler.com