Duterte mulls cutting Iceland ties over U.N. probe – Panelo

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is "seriously considering" cutting  diplomatic ties with Iceland after it spearheaded a United Nations resolution to probe his deadly drug war, his spokesman said.

Duterte bristles at any Western condemnation of his signature campaign, which has killed thousands and critics say could amount to crimes against humanity.

The comments late Monday, July 15, from presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo came in response to the UN Human Rights Council last week backing the Iceland-proposed resolution to review the killings.

"(Duterte) is seriously considering cutting diplomatic relations with Iceland," Panelo said in a statement.

"The adopted Iceland resolution is grotesquely one-sided, outrageously narrow, and maliciously partisan," he added.

Panelo, on Tuesday, July 16, said cutting ties with Iceland would have only a minimal impact on the Philippines. 

"There are only about 2,000 Filipinos there and as far as we know, there are no trade relations between these two countries except maybe fish. I'm not familiar with it, I still have to ask Secretary Lopez," he said during a press conference.

The two countries marked their 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year. According to the Embassy of the Philippines in the Nordics website, the two countries "have been steady partners in the areas of maritime, mining, renewable energy, medical services, fisheries, and geothermal energy." Iceland employs Filipino nurses, and office and factory workers.

Duterte launched the anti-drug crackdown in 2016, and since then police say they have killed over 5,300 drug suspects. However, human rights groups say the true toll is 4 times that number.  (READ: The Impunity Series)

The UN review comes in addition to a preliminary examination already launched by war crimes prosecutors from the International Criminal Court, which the Philippines left earlier this year. (READ: Duterte throws out decade-long fight for the International Criminal Court)

Panelo attacked the UN resolution saying it "likewise demonstrates how the Western powers are scornful of our sovereign exercise of protecting our people".

Earlier Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr said the Philippines rejected the UN resoution.

"The Philippines rejects this resolution. It cannot, in good conscience, abide by it. We will not accept a politically partisan and one-sided resolution so detached from the truth on the ground," Locsin Jr said.

Duterte's government frequently paints international criticism as a violation of sovereignty, but watchdogs counter by saying an impartial local review is nearly impossible while Duterte is in power.

Last week Amnesty International released a report alleging the killing is "systematic" and police face very little, if any, scrutiny over the nightly slayings.

Duterte has already publicly mocked Iceland over UN vote.

"Iceland, what is Iceland's problem? Just ice. That's your problem. You have too much ice," Duterte said Friday, July 12.

"These idiots, they don't understand the social, economic, political problems of the Philippines."

While the Philippines and Iceland have diplomatic ties, they do not have embassies in each other's country, said Locsin.

Economic ties include Icelandic investment in geothermal energy in the Philippines and Filipinos working as office and factory workers and nurses in Iceland.

Locsin had said his nation could withdraw from the UN rights council over the vote but later said it would not do so. – Rappler.com