Philippines to resume aid talks with backers of UN drug war probe

The Philippines said Wednesday it is resuming aid talks with Western countries it had rebuked just months earlier for backing…

The Philippines said Wednesday it is resuming aid talks with Western countries it had rebuked just months earlier for backing a UN resolution to review human rights abuses under President Rodrigo Duterte’s rule.

Last year Duterte ordered his government to suspend all loan and grant negotiations with the 18 foreign governments that voted for a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution which passed by a minority vote in July.

The Iceland-led initiative was sparked by Duterte’s signature anti-narcotics crackdown which has killed thousands and drawn international condemnation but is widely supported by Filipinos.

“Please be informed that such directive is hereby lifted, effective immediately,” said a memorandum by Duterte’s executive secretary Salvador Medialdea which was released to the press Wednesday.

Government officials gave no explanation for the reversal.

But Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in September, when the ban was first made public, that he would ask Duterte to exempt Australia, a key military ally.

Duterte’s ban came as the Philippine military was in talks for Australian assistance to acquire offshore patrol craft to upgrade the Filipino navy.

The 18 countries that voted for the UN resolution also included among others Britain, Italy, Spain, and Denmark.

Duterte bristles at Western condemnation of his signature campaign.

In March last year the Philippines officially withdrew from the International Criminal Court after the tribunal’s chief prosecutor announced a preliminary investigation into alleged extrajudicial killings of purported drug dealers and users in the country.

Last month Duterte also scrapped a key military pact with the United States that lays the legal framework for US troops to be on Philippine soil and is central to hundreds of annual, joint military exercises.

He cited alleged interference by US legislators calling on him to free Filipino Senator Leila de Lima and the supposed cancellation of the US visa of Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, a former police chief and enforcer of the drug war.

De Lima was arrested three years ago and is on trial for anti-drugs charges that international rights monitors allege are meant to silence her.