President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered all government agencies to reject loans and grants from 18 countries that supported an inquiry into the government’s war on drugs, Malacañang confirmed Monday.
The memo signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea will not affect ongoing projects, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said, but cover only loans and grants still being negotiated.
The issuance of the memorandum dated Aug. 27 was first reported on Friday but the Palace swiftly denied it.
Panelo said he had asked Duterte about it at the time, and said the President “might have forgotten [it] momentarily.”
“What is important is that the memo exists and it is maintained,” he said Monday.
The ban on loans, aid, grants from these countries will remain until Duterte’s term expires in 2022, Panelo said.
Panelo said Duterte came up with the directive because the government was insulted by the Iceland-led resolution calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council to compile a comprehensive report on the government’s anti-drug war that has reportedly killed more than 6,000 suspected drug pushers and users since 2016.
Government officials defended the memorandum from opposition lawmakers who earlier called it “ill-advised,” “anti-poor,” and “irrational.”
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said all proposed engagements with the 18 countries are technical assistance grants and will not significantly affect the government’s infrastructure program.
“The rates offered by said countries, if ever, are certainly no better than the rates already offered by multilateral development financial institutions, as well as bilateral development partners,” Dominguez said.
The 18 countries which favored the Iceland-led resolution are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, and Uruguay.
Some signatories are members of the European Union, one of the Philippines’ largest sources of official development assistance.
Out of the UNHRC’s 47 member-countries, 14 states opposed the resolution including China and Saudi Arabia, while 15 countries such as Japan, South Africa, Brazil, and Pakistan abstained.
Duterte publicly mocked Iceland and mulled cutting diplomatic ties with it.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said that “experience showed the same countries that voted for the Iceland resolution never gave or lent us anything worthwhile or offered with conditions more onerous than the loans we’d have to pay back.”
Panelo also said a recent survey showing a majority of respondents favoring the anti-drug war should serve to refute critics and other countries that fail to consider the public preference in dealing with the drug problem.
“Instead of finding ways to bombard this administration with their intolerant remarks, these negative forces should take a cue from our people’s sentiments, start having an appreciation of the efforts of a tireless Chief Executive, and contribute in building a safe, secure and prosperous nation,” Panelo said in a statement.
This came after the Social Weather Stations reported that about eight in every 10 respondents were satisfied with the anti-narcotics campaign despite reports of abuses and illegal killings.
Only 12 percent of the respondents said they were dissatisfied while 6 percent were undecided, for an “excellent” net satisfaction rating of +70 percent, SWS said.
Two opposition senators assailed President Duterte for favoring onerous loans from China which supports his “murderous policies.”
“This heartless President rather prefers onerous loans from China, simply because China supports his murderous policies at the UNHRC and in the international arena, without questions asked,” said Senator Leila de Lima.
For Duterte, she noted that it is better to bury the country in debt with billions in Chinese loans, rather than benefit from free aid and grants from countries, who just happen to also ask for a stop to his murderous drug war.
Senator Francis Pangilinan asked added: “If the administration has nothing to hide why is it so against an investigation?”
The Liberal Parry president said the country is digging itself into a deeper hole by this retaliation.