DFA: Robredo’s video comment at UN ‘side event’ needs verification
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday clarified that the controversial video message of Vice President Leni Robredo was shown at a United Nations “side event” and that her concerns still need verification.
“This side event was not part of the official proceedings of the 60th Session of the UN-CND (United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs) and did not reflect the stand of participating governments,” the DFA said in a statement.
“Elements in the Vice President’s side event statement need to be verified, as already earlier stated by the Presidential Spokesperson on the matter,” it added.
Robredo drew flak from President Rodrigo Duterte’s supporters after sending a video message for the event. In her message, she raised the issue of extrajudicial killings linked to the President’s war against drugs.
“Drug abuse should not be treated as one that can be solved with bullets alone. It must be regarded as it truly is: a complex public health issue, linked intimately with poverty and social inequality,” Robredo had said.
The agency pointed out that DFA “remains committed to the Philippine government’s fight against criminality and illegal drugs in the country” and had supported the 60th session of the UN Commission on Narcotics in Vienna, Austria earlier this month, which was attended by officials of the Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), and the Philippine Permanent Mission to the UN in Vienna.
“Alongside the 60th Session of the UN-CND, around 100 side events and numerous exhibitions were organized by non-government organizations (NGOs),” it said. “On 16 March 2017, one such side event sponsored by an anti-drug network featured the video-taped remarks of Vice President Leni Robredo, who spoke on alleged drug-related extra-judicial killings in the country.”
Nevertheless, the DFA said that side events “provide an opportunity for Member States, UN entities and NGOs to discuss themes in parallel to the official UN meetings or conferences where the NGOs are not involved.”
“The Philippines respects fundamental freedoms, including the right of everyone to speak freely on any topic. However, freedom of expression is a right that comes with the responsibility to ensure that facts are verified, and unfounded allegations from questionable sources are avoided,” it said, before pointing out that details raised by Robredo needed verifying.
“The government is investigating the veracity of allegations of drug-related extra-judicial killings, which are being undertaken precisely in strict adherence to due process and the rule of law,” DFA said.
“This was conveyed by the Philippine Permanent Mission to the UN in Vienna in a statement delivered at that same side event after the Vice President’s remarks were shown,” it said, adding that the permanent mission also emphasized that “the Philippine Government has pursued a balanced and holistic approach to the drug issue in all its facets.”
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