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Rodrigo Duterte suspends aid deals with countries backing UN probe

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Rodrigo Duterte has ordered Philippine government agencies and state-owned companies to suspend talks on all loan and grant agreements with the countries that voted for a UN human rights investigation into his administration’s deadly crackdown on drugs. 

A memorandum from the office of the president, stamped “confidential” and seen by the Financial Times on Friday, “calls upon the Philippines to take certain actions in relation to alleged human rights violations in the country”. 

The UN Human Rights Council in July narrowly endorsed a resolution asking Michelle Bachelet, head of the world body’s Human Rights Council, to probe deaths in Mr Duterte’s “war on drugs”. Philippine officials say more than 5,500 “drug personalities” have died in the violence but human rights groups estimate as many as 27,000 people may have been killed, mostly the urban poor. 

The memorandum, dated August 27 and signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on behalf of the Philippine president, says “all concerned officials are DIRECTED to suspend negotiations for and signing of all loan and grant agreements with the governments of the countries that co-sponsored and/or voted in favour of the aforesaid resolution, pending the assessment of our relations with these countries”. 

The document is addressed to all government department secretaries, heads of agencies and government-owned or controlled companies and financial institutions. 

The FT was unable to reach a Philippine government spokesman for comment. However, a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the contents of the memo. 

The UN resolution was put forward by Iceland and supported by 18 countries, including the UK, Australia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain and Ukraine. Fourteen countries voted against it. 

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The Philippines condemned the measure as one-sided and hypocritical and Teddy Locsin Jr, the foreign secretary, warned that there would be “consequences” after the vote. 

The ban on loan talks is likely to affect some development aid for the Philippines. The country in 2017 rejected €6.1m ($6.7m) of EU aid as part of a policy of what it sees as meddling in its internal affairs by tying assistance to human rights and the rule of law. 

Mr Duterte, one of the most popular presidents in Philippine history, won office in 2016 in part on promises to get tough on crime and drugs. 

However, according to human rights groups, the anti-narcotics crackdown has been marked by cases in which police used excessive or indiscriminate force, and police or masked gunmen carried out extrajudicial killings. 

The International Criminal Court in 2018 launched a preliminary inquiry into accusations of crimes against humanity committed by Philippine officials during the drug crackdown. The Philippines responded by saying it would quit The Hague-based body, which it formally left in March. 

The government directive banning loan talks with countries supporting the human rights probe is to remain in effect until lifted by the president’s office.

Additional reporting by Minnie Advincula in Manila

Follow John Reed on Twitter: @JohnReedwrites

Via Financial Times

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