Barking Up The Wrong Tree: Misguided Tirade
IRKED BY what he thought was a threat by the European Union (EU) to delist the country from the United Nations (UN), President Rodrigo Duterte unleashed yet another expletive-laden statement on October 12, demanding EU envoys to leave the country in 24 hours.
“And they threatened us, I said that they will have us expelled from the UN. My God, do it stupid. Do it now,” the president said, fuming. But the demand was all bark, made against the wrong target. No official communication was ever issued to this effect.
The president lashed out at the EU after the seven-member International Delegates of the Progressive Alliance which visited Manila on October 8 and 9 warned that the country faces risks of losing a preferential trade deal and urged the president to stop and investigate the drug war killings. It also called out the “systematic silencing of dissent” by citing “absurd cases” against Senator Risa Hontiveros and the “unjust imprisonment” of Senator Leila de Lima.
The group is composed of parliamentarians and civil society leaders from different countries, including Australia, the US, and some parliamentarians from European countries. While the visiting delegation issued a statement of protest, it did not issue any threats of having the Philippines delisted from any international organization.
In fact, it was specifically the Human Rights Watch (HRW) which observed that the Philippines could be removed from the UNHRC. Separate reports on October 9 quoted HRW Geneva Director John Fisher saying “We feel that the Philippines is in violation of its membership obligations and that the General Assembly would have grounds to consider its removal [from the UNHRC].” (PHL at risk of being removed from UN Human Rights Council – HRW)
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella clarified later that the president was reacting to the International Delegation of the Progressive Alliance which had “falsely portrayed itself as an EU mission.” The group has denied they misrepresented themselves.
Reporting the president’s outburst, media did well to point out that the EU was not involved in the statements made by the group – quickly checking the president’s incorrect and unreasonable response.
This time, the president may have been misled by one editorial slip which must be called out. CMFR jeers the Philippine Daily Inquirer for the inaccuracy of its teaser on its October 10 banner story reporting the group’s statements. The report “Int’l groups press probe of drug kills” was accompanied by the teaser “Human Rights Watch says the Philippines could be expelled from UNHRC while EU mission warns the country could lose a preferential trade deal if the Duterte administration doesn’t do anything about the killings.” The report also ended with “Malacañang had no immediate comment on the EU mission’s statements.” The use of “EU mission” twice in the story was erroneous as the parliamentarians from different European countries were not speaking as an official EU delegation.
After over a year in office, it does not look as though the president can be expected to learn to check himself and his facts before speaking. The bad habit is all the more reason then for the press to be accurate with their facts and context, and to be willing to call out the president when he is wrong.