A DAY after President Rodrigo Duterte launched profanity-laced remarks against the European Union (EU), Malacañang on Friday came to his defense, saying the Chief Executive was merely prompted to take potshots at the regional bloc after being "fed with wrong information."
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella explained that the President was not misinformed about the alleged EU's proposal on the Philippines' expulsion in the United Nations (UN).
Abella then blamed the media over the supposed dubious news reports, which "falsely portrayed" the European bloc as the seven delegates from the International Progressive Alliance.
"That makes reference to the seven-man team [of Progressive Alliance]. Basically that. I mean the focus was on that. And again, the European delegation has already issued a clarification that seven-man team was not the EU itself," he told Palace reporters.
"Basically, he (Duterte) was reacting to what he was reading. He was reacting to what he was reading so it's not a question of being misinformed, that means to say, being fed with wrong information," the presidential spokesman added.
On Thursday, Duterte slammed the EU for allegedly advocating to delist the Philippines' as UN member-state.
The Chief Executive shrugged off the country's possible removal of UN membership and in exchange, told the EU ambassadors to the Philippines to leave "in 24 hours."
"They threatened us that they will have us expelled from the UN. My God, do it, stupid. Do it now," Duterte said at the inauguration of renovated Palace's press briefing room.
"Now, the ambassadors of those countries listening now, tell me because we can have the diplomatic channel cut tomorrow. You leave my country in 24 hours. All. All of you," he added.
The EU released a statement shortly after Duterte's pronouncement, denying that it made a suggestion to expel the Philippines from the UN.
The EU also clarified that it was not associated with the Progressive Alliance delegation to the Philippines on October 8 to 9, "as falsely reported by some media outlets."
"The statements made by the Progressive Alliance during its visit to the Philippines were made solely on behalf of the Progressive Alliance and do not represent the position of the European Union," the regional bloc said in a statement.
"The EU and the Philippines work constructively together in close partnership in many contexts and areas, including of course, in the UN context. The cooperation covers a very wide range of subjects, including trade, where this year the Philippines made extraordinary progress on its exports to the EU," it added.
Joining Abella at the press conference, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said that the EU was "not really into lecturing and meddling," contrary to news reports.
He cited that the regional bloc even expressed support on the Duterte government's policies and programs, including its crackdown on illegal drugs, during the September 25 to 27 meeting with key members of EU Parliament and executives of the EU Commission in Brussels.
"They were not into lecturing type; they were actually telling us how they can help. That’s what they said as we were describing the anti-illegal drug campaign for example and all these issues," Lopez said.
"After we explained, giving them the correct set of numbers, they're telling us, 'So how can we help?' We were surprised. They're not really into lecturing and into meddling," he added.
Abella asked the EU diplomats to just snub the President's warning against them since he was merely reacting to the statement of the delegation of the Progressive Alliance, not the European bloc.
Lopez likewise said Duterte’s remark should be deemed “irrelevant.”
“If he’s not referring [to EU], what the President has said is already not relevant,” the Trade Secretary said.
“And the EU understands that’s why they issued a clarification… They said, ‘Sometimes, we’re surprised with the statement of the President. We are concern.’ But they’re trying to analyze it also. That’s why they’re also careful,” he added.
Following Duterte’s remark, Abella said the Philippine government is now talking to EU to make amends.
“Actually, there’s some conversation going on behind,” Abella said. “I’m sure these things are being clarified directly to persons concerned.”
Akbayan partylist Representative Tom Villarin criticized the President's "knee-jerk policy response" to negative comments of the International Progressive Alliance.
"It is a knee-jerk policy response to a growing international concern involving human rights violations. It is not to the best interest of our country especially that EU is the second largest trading partner of the Philippines and has enjoyed GSP+ status," Villarin said.
He said the seven-man team's comment was an expression of EU's concern.
"It is not interference in our domestic affairs. Rather it shows EU's concern for our country not being seen as a rogue state when it comes to rule of law and human rights. It should be stressed that there are thousands of Filipinos living in EU that will be adversely affected by kicking out EU ambassadors in our country," he added.
More than 800,000 Filipinos are living in EU countries, according to data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. (SunStar Philippines)