PH resumes accepting aid from countries that backed UN drug war probe

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 4) — Malacañang has lifted the suspension of negotiations for financial assistance from states that called for a United Nations probe into the bloody war on drugs.

A memorandum dated February 27 and released on Wednesday ordered all department secretaries, and heads of agencies, government-owned and controlled corporations and state financial institutions to resume talks for signing loan and grant agreements with countries that voted for or co-sponsored Iceland's resolution urging the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to look into the killings and other alleged human rights abuses in the Philippines. 

The memorandum, signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea "by order of the President" is "effective immediately."

"It is understood, however, that all necessary approvals, authorities and clearances, as required by relevant laws, rules, and regulations, should first be obtained prior to actual negotiations and conclusion of any agreement with the covered foreign governments," the order read.

On July 11, 2019, 17 member states of the UN Human Rights Council voted to adopt Iceland's resolution calling for an investigation into the Philippines' drug war. They are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, UK, and Uruguay. Fourteen other nations, including the Philippines and China, voted against the conduct of a probe. The remaining 15 abstained.

President Rodrigo Duterte's administration has condemned the impending investigation, even arguing that it failed to get a majority vote from the 47-member-strong Human Rights Council. Duterte also repeatedly lashed out at Iceland and maintained that the Philippines will not allow UN investigators in the country.

READ: Duterte 'seriously considering' cutting diplomatic ties with Iceland

On August 27, 2019, Malacañang issued an order stopping all negotiations for aid from Iceland and the 17 other states supportive of the UN probe. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo initially denied the existence of the controversial order but the Bureau of Customs later published a copy of the memorandum on its website.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Tedoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin, Jr. said stopping the aid talks was a "good idea," claiming the Philippines has "more than enough."

Under the resolution, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet will conduct a "comprehensive" review of the Philippines' human rights situation and present the results in June 2020, during the body's 44th regular session.

READ: What to expect from UN's review of Philippine drug war

The tough-talking President has in the past repeatedly lashed out at the UN and human rights groups for criticisms on his drug war, which according to government data has left around 6,000 suspects dead in police operations. Local and international human rights groups say the anti-drug campaign has resulted in thousands more extrajudicial killings, a claim the government has denied.

The killings are also being examined by the International Criminal Court, an international tribunal which could have Duterte and his officials prosecuted and jailed. Duterte has threatened to arrest ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and her investigators if they set foot in the country, claiming they have no jurisdiction over the Philippines.