Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed an order rejecting development aid from 18 countries that supported a United Nations resolution to investigate drug-war killings, his spokesman said Monday.
The confirmation by spokesman Salvador Panelo came three days after he denied the existence of the president’s memorandum, a copy of which has been received by BenarNews.
Explaining the turnaround, Panelo said Duterte forgot about the order contained in the document.
“That is more of a lapse of memory for a few minutes because when I asked him again, he said, ‘yes I did,’” Panelo said.
Panelo said the order “will not have a significant impact on the country” because the amounts were minimal. He clarified that existing grants and loans would not be affected.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the Philippines has existing grants from Australia ($228.89 million), Germany ($151.31 million), France ($6.72 million), Italy ($4.71 million) and Spain ($570,000), according to the Philippine Star.
In July, the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council voted to investigate thousands of drug-related killings in the Philippines. Introduced by Iceland, the resolution calls for the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights to investigate the deaths and issue a report in June 2020.
Australia, Italy and Spain were among 18 that voted for the resolution, while 14 nations voted against it and 15 abstained.
The president’s memorandum, dated Aug. 27 and received by the Bureau of Customs message center on Sept. 6, ordered all cabinet secretaries, heads of government agencies and state firms to suspend all new talks and negotiations for foreign loans and grants from the 18 countries.
“The directive shall take effect immediately and shall remain effective until lifted by this office,” said the document signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
Since Duterte assumed office in 2016, the death toll in his war on drugs has reached almost 7,000, according to official figures. Rights groups, however, estimate that between 20,000 and 30,000 have been killed in the anti-narcotics campaign.
Duterte faces two criminal complaints before the Hague-based International Criminal Court linked to the war on drugs. In response, he pulled the Philippines from an international treaty that created the ICC.
Opposition Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Duterte’s directive would be seen as hostile and warned that it could have repercussions for the nation.
“These aren’t small countries – Australia, U.K., Italy, Spain – and they said this is more than 20 billion pesos ($383 million), so that is a big loss,” Pangilinan said. “We’re actually isolating ourselves more.”