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EU lawmakers to visit Manila to discuss human rights situation


THE PHILIPPINES has accepted a request from the European Parliament to visit the country on Feb. 22 to 24 and discuss the country’s human rights situation, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday.

Representatives from the legislative body’s subcommittee on human rights will visit the country as part of the government’s shared aim of more “constructive dialogue and cooperation on human rights,” the agency said in a statement.

The Philippines also wants to discuss how to improve Filipinos’ access to the legal system, it added.

The European External Action Service in Manila did not immediately reply to a Facebook Messenger chat seeking comment.

The European Parliament in February last year passed a resolution asking the Philippines to act on human rights abuses or face losing trade perks under the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus or GSP+. The arrangement allows the duty-free entry of 6,274 Philippine products to Europe. These account for two-thirds of all European Union (EU) tariff lines.

Six European Parliament members will visit Manila and meet with their counterparts in the Senate and House of Representatives to talk about best practices and legislation, DFA said.

They will also pay courtesy calls on Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla and Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual, as well as participate in a dialogue with Executive officials.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. during his visit to Brussels in December cited opportunities to expand Philippine-EU trade and investment, DFA said.

The president had also expressed his interest in resuming negotiations for a free trade agreement with the EU, as well as the renewal of the country’s participation in the GSP+.

Mr. Marcos Jr. noted that while the Philippines awaits the resumption of free trade talks, “we remain committed to maintaining our EU GSP+ beneficiary status, serving as a stepping-stone towards this free trade agreement.”

Free trade talks with the EU started in 2016 but have been on pause since 2017.

Nagkaisa, the biggest labor coalition in the Philippines, on Sunday urged the Marcos government to cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) probe of his predecessor’s deadly war on drugs.

The ICC’s intervention does not mean that the Philippine justice system is incapable of delivering justice, it said in a statement.

Last month, the ICC pre-trial chamber reopened its investigation into the killings and so-called crimes against humanity under ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

The Hague-based tribunal said it was not satisfied with Philippine efforts to probe the deaths.

Mr. Marcos on Saturday called the ICC’s probe a threat to the country’s sovereignty, saying the international tribunal did not have jurisdiction over the Philippines.

“I have stated it often, even before I took office as president, that there are many questions about their jurisdiction and what can be — what we in the Philippines regard as an intrusion into our internal matters and a threat to our sovereignty,” he told reporters.

He said the Philippines has a working justice system that can hold erring officials accountable.

In a decision on Feb. 17, the ICC appeals chamber granted the Philippine government’s request for more time to file its appeal to suspend the probe. It gave the country up to March 13.

ICC prosecutor Karim Ahmad A. Khan on Feb. 16 asked the international court to deny the Philippines’ request, saying it did not raise new arguments to justify halting the probe.

The international tribunal, which tries people charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and aggression, suspended its probe of ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s deadly war on drugs in 2021 upon the Philippine government’s request.

It was also set to probe vigilante-style killings in Davao City when Mr. Duterte was still its vice mayor and mayor.

Nagkaisa said it was disappointed with former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s call to defend Mr. Duterte.

Last week, Ms. Arroyo and more than a dozen congressmen filed a resolution seeking the “unequivocal defense” of Mr. Duterte.

At least 6,117 suspected drug dealers had been killed in police operations, according to data released by the Philippine government in June 2021. Human rights groups estimate that as many as 30,000 suspects died.

The Philippine Human Rights Commission has said the Duterte government had encouraged a culture of impunity by hindering independent inquiries and failing to prosecute erring cops.

More than 30 member-states of the United Nations Human Rights Council in November urged the Philippine government to do something about extralegal killings in connection with Mr. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

The Philippines has accepted 200 recommendations from the UN Human Rights Council, including investigating extralegal killings and protecting journalists and activists. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

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