Robredo video not played at UN meeting, DFA says

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) clarified that the controversial video of Vice President Leni Robredo, where she criticized the Duterte administration's war on drugs, was not screened at a recent United Nations (UN) meeting.

Robredo's video was instead played in one of a hundred side events and exhibits mounted by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) alongside a UN session in Vienna, Austria.

Earlier reports said Robredo's video was shown at a UN meeting.

The video had prompted a draft impeachment complaint against Robredo for showing this video to a "UN body." 

In a statement on Wednesday, March 22, the DFA explained that the 60th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (UN-CND) was held from March 13 to 17 in Vienna, Austria. 

The DFA "supported the official participation of the Philippines" in this UN event. The agency said it "remains committed to the Philippine government's fight against criminality and illegal drugs in the country."

The DFA continued, "Alongside the 60th Session of the UN-CND, around 100 side events and numerous exhibitions were organized by non-governmental organizations (NGOs)."

"On 16 March 2017, one such side event sponsored by an anti-drug network featured the video-taped remarks of Vice President Leni Robredo, who spoke on alleged drug-related extrajudicial killings in the country.  This side event was not part of the official proceedings of the 60th Session of the UN-CND and did not reflect the stand of participating governments," the DFA added.

NGOs behind the event

The 50-minute side event was titled, "Human Rights Challenge: Responding to Extrajudicial Killings in the Drug War."

It was organized by the DRC Net Foundation, Associazione Luca Coscioni, the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, and No Peace Without Justice, according to a program released by UN-CND.

The DFA pointed out: "In the UN context, side events, or activities organized outside the formal program of official UN meetings, provide an opportunity for member-states, UN entities, and NGOs to discuss themes in parallel to the official UN meetings or conferences where the NGOs are not involved."

Still, the agency said elements in Robredo's side event statement "need to be verified."

"The Philippines respects fundamental freedoms, including the right of everyone to speak freely on any topic.  However, freedom of expression is a right that comes with the responsibility to ensure that facts are verified, and unfounded allegations from questionable sources are avoided," the DFA said. 

It added that the Philippine government is investigating alleged extrajudicial killings. 

Robredo's video was cited in the draft impeachment complaint prepared against her by Marcos loyalists Oliver Lozano and Melchor Chavez.

UN body hit over protocol

Lozano and Chavez quoted a huge chunk from a Manila Times column by former journalist Rigoberto Tiglao. 

In this column, Tiglao wrongly pointed out that Robredo's video message was "sent to the UN Commission on Narcotics (sic) Drugs to be played at its 60th meeting."

"We should all be outraged over Robredo's message, and Congress must issue a resolution condemning her, and transmitting this to the UN body," Tiglao said in an excerpt that the complainants quoted.

Tiglao added that the Philippines' ambassador to the UN "must protest why the body allowed (if indeed it did, since as of press time I cannot confirm if her video message was played or not) at their meeting such an unfair and biased picture of the country's campaign against drugs."

He said, as also quoted by Lozano and Chavez, "Isn't it protocol for such international bodies to play only official messages from countries' official representatives?"

Despite the draft impeachment complaint by the two Marcos loyalists, Duterte on Thursday, March 23, rejected the attempt to impeach Robredo, as he said she enjoys freedom of speech.

In any case, the Duterte administration also blames Robredo's video for the European Parliament's recent warning against the Philippines. European lawmakers warned that the Philippines could lose trade incentives in the human rights situation in the country does not improve. 

Fact-checking by Rappler, however, showed that the EU resolution did not cite Robredo's video as a basis for its warning. Neither did the EU resolution mention Robredo's name.  

Duterte, not Robredo, was the highest official mentioned by the EU Parliament in its resolution against extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. – Rappler.com