Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte disagrees with PH vote backing UN probe into Gaza conflict

Pia Ranada
Duterte disagrees with PH vote backing UN probe into Gaza conflict

TIES WITH ISRAEL. President Rodrigo Duterte speaks with outgoing Ambassador of Israel to the Philippines Rafael Harpaz and his wife, Madame Shulamit, after conferring the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Datu (Grand Cross) Silver Distinction on the diplomat.

Malacañang

President Rodrigo Duterte says he was not consulted on the vote of the Philippine delegation

Malacañang confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte opposed the Philippine delegation’s vote supporting a United Nations Human Rights Council investigation into the Israel-Palestine conflict in Gaza.

“If your question is, did the President disagree with the vote, yes he did,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said during a press conference on Thursday, June 17.

“Can it be taken back? Apparently not, but the President has made sure that there will hence be a mechanism and procedure, as far as voting on crucial issues, where the views of the chief architect of foreign relations should at least be consulted,” continued Roque.

“Appropriate guidance” has been relayed to “relevant senior officials” to make sure Duterte is consulted on future votes, said the spokesman.

Duterte questions Medialdea, Borje

Duterte’s position was partly revealed during a livestream of a law-signing ceremony on Wednesday, June 16, where the President was heard calling the attention of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea in relation to his meeting with outgoing Israel Ambassador Rafael Harpaz later that day.

He appeared to be saying that someone wanted the Philippines to withdraw its vote.

Ayusin muna natin ito. Ano ba ‘yung boto natin sa UN na pina-withdraw ni – ‘Yung sa Israel?” said Duterte after wrapping up his event speech.

(Let’s fix this first. What is this vote of ours in the UN that we are being asked to withdraw – about Israel?)

Medialdea approached Duterte, who was still standing at his podium. His responses could not be heard in the livestream.

Duterte went on to say that he wanted to withdraw the Philippine delegation’s vote and wondered aloud, “Sino ba may alam diyan (Who knew about it)? What was the ruckus about?”

Medialdea then gestured towards Chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje whose response to Duterte could also not be heard.

But whatever Borje was saying appeared not to have appeased the President who said, “Our representative voted without consulting the home government.”

At this point, the livestream was cut.

Israel angered by Philippine vote

The Philippines’ delegation to the UNHRC had voted in favor of a resolution to investigate war crimes that may have been perpetrated by Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas during the conflict in May that ended in a ceasefire.

An outraged Israel summoned Philippine Ambassador Macairog Alberto over the vote which it called “unacceptable.”

But Roque, on June 3, had defended the delegation’s vote saying it was “consistent” with the country’s position on Israel and Palestine and should not affect relations with the former. At the time, he said Duterte “does not micromanage” when it comes to such votes.

But on Thursday, the spokesman said it appears Duterte was particularly interested with this vote.

“I was correct when I said that, normally, we leave it to the DFA. However, this is a vote where the President has expressed concerns on the mechanism and procedure that led to our vote in the UN Human Rights Council,” said Roque.

Some 30,000 overseas Filipino workers are based in Israel, most employed as domestic help, according to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

The national government is also set to benefit from COVID-19-related assistance from Israel, including a possible share in its surplus vaccines and a visit of Israeli experts to the country to help improve its vaccine roll-out. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.