Philippines 'not leaving' UN amid Duterte threat

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The Philippines on Monday, August 22, said it will not leave the United Nations (UN) despite a threat made by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

"We certainly are not leaving the UN," Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr said in a news conference on Monday.

Yasay said the Philippines remains "committed" to the UN despite its "frustrations" with UN rapporteurs who want to investigate recent extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

Yasay said: "The President is understandably extremely disappointed and frustrated with this action of the special rapporteurs in arbitrarily concluding that these drug-related killings were done by or are at the instance of law enforcers. But I can assure you that he remains committed to the United Nations, of which the Philippines is one of the founding members."

He also pointed out that the UN experts acted "in their personal capacity" when they spoke about the killings.

He said the UN experts reacted only based on media reports.

"We do not discredit media reports but these rapporteurs are mandated to make proper inquiries and there are protocols to conduct such probes," Yasay said.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella also clarified on Monday morning that the country will not be leaving the UN.

"We are not decoupling. It was a matter of record, it was a statement," said Abella during a press conference at Malacañang Palace.

"[President Duterte] was just basically stating the fact that the Philippines is a sovereign nation and should not be meddled with," he added.

This comes after Duterte on Sunday, August 21, threatened to withdraw the Philippines from the UN, as he launched another profanity-laced tirade against the organization for criticizing his bloody war on drugs.

"Maybe we'll just have to decide to separate from the United Nations. If you are that disrespectful, son of a whore, then I will just leave you," Duterte said in a press conference in his home city of Davao that started about 1 am on Sunday.

Duterte said he may even try to set up a rival international organization.

"I would invite everybody. I would invite maybe China, the African (nations)," he said.

The UN's special rapporteur on summary executions, Agnes Callamard, last week said Duterte's promise of immunity and bounties to security forces who killed drug suspects violated international law.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in June also strongly criticized Duterte, who during the election campaign promised to kill 100,000 people and dump so many bodies in Manila Bay that the fish would grow fat from feeding on them.

More than 1,500 people have been killed since Duterte took office and immediately began his law-and-order crackdown, according to police statistics, triggering fierce criticism from the UN and rights groups.

In a statement on Monday, Kabayan Representative Harry Roque, an international law expert, criticized Duterte's remarks and warned that a Philippine exit from the UN would have "disastrous consequences."

"The threat of President Duterte to withdraw the Philippines' membership from the [UN] is impulsive, imprudent, and contrary to the interests of the nation," Roque said.

"Moving forward, the President should be more circumspect in making statements that could potentially have adverse effects on our foreign diplomatic relations and territorial integrity."

Roque added that Duterte's remarks only boost China's own statements against the UN.

"The Philippines has worked very hard over the past few weeks to gather international support for the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration over the West Philippine Sea. Withdrawing from the UN or threatening to do so only strengthens China's rhetoric that the UN and its subsidiary institutions are illegitimate," the lawmaker said. With reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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