Malacañang on Tuesday backed House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s bid to pull the country out of the Inter-Parliamentary Union as the group meddles in the country’s judicial processes.
“I support the call of Speaker Arroyo,” said Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo in a Palace press briefing Tuesday.
“Ever since that has been the stance of the President. We’ve been hearing him make speeches in the same tone,” he added.
Panelo said no international human rights organization has jurisdiction over the country.
He added that groups such as the IPU merely besmirch the country’s judicial system by coming to conclusions even without conducting a prior investigation.
“They came here and investigated [Senator Leila] De Lima, and I think Senator [Antonio] Trillanes [IV]. Then they made a finding that it seems there was a violation of human rights [and] that no due process was given to them. In effect, they’re saying that our judicial system is not functioning,” said Panelo.
“They’ve been giving pre-judgments. And to our mind, that’s an intrusion, an insult, offensive to the decency of this country, as well as an intrusion on our sovereignty,” he added.
Earlier, Arroyo, who was the head of the IPU Philippine delegation, recommended to the Senate that Philippines withdraw its membership from the IPU because of the group’s continuous intervention in the country’s judicial system.
Upon Arroyo’s recommendation, members of the Senate, the chamber which belongs to the IPU, are divided.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the suggestion was “defeatist” and a “tacit admission that indeed critical lawmakers are being persecuted under the Duterte administration.” However, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he was “inclined to concur” with Arroyo, stressing the country is a “sovereign state with a working judicial process.”
On Sunday, the group said it would send an official mission to the country to look into the administration’s “political persecution,” adopting two resolutions expressing deep concern over the “human rights violations” against the two opposition senators.
The Palace, however, remained firm that the country does not need guidance from a “prying organization,” assuring them the country has an independent, effective, and functioning judicial system.
“Our state does not need guidance or directives from strangers. We can do well on our own,” Panelo said.
The IPU, an international group of lawmakers, has criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration for its attacks on its critics. It is a global organization of national parliamentarians from 178 member-states.
In the House, Deputy Majority Leader Ron Salo asked where the IPU was when former President Gloria Arroyo was detained and subjected to a vilification campaign.
“Our delegation expressly requested copies of the minutes of proceedings as well as any draft text of resolution, and also members of our delegation personally expressed their desire to participate in the meeting held yesterday to afford the committee the chance to hear their side but were denied this opportunity,” Salo said in the statement he delivered at the IPU Assembly held in Geneva, Switzerland.
Salo, speaking for the Philippine delegation, asked on the floor of the IPU Assembly, “that the proposed decisions relating to the Philippines on these matters be deferred, and that the committee conduct and continue its fact finding and engagement with all parties and the Philippine parliamentary authorities.”
Salo also pointed out the apparent double standard practiced by the IPU.
“It is ironic indeed for our delegation to experience this situation when our head of delegation herself, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and former President of our Republic, Madame Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, while suffering five years of detention and vilification during her incumbency as a member of the House of Representatives, never heard one word of concern or solidarity from the IPU Governing Council, or the said committee,” Salo said.
“For the record, the Philippine Supreme Court finally acquitted Mme. Arroyo, showing the strength of the Rule of Law in the Philippines, and its judicial system,” he added.
Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III also said he does not see any benefit in the country’s membership in the IPU.
“I fully support our leader’s stand on our withdrawal from the IPU which is useless to us anyway,” Albano said. “Why not make our country neutral so we can deal with other countries on a one on one basis. Anyway most of the IPU members are using our country just for consolidating public opinion to favor their interest,” he added.
However, opposition Party-list Reps. Tom Villarin of Akbayan and Gary Alejano of Magdalo opposed Arroyo’s position against the IPU.
Villarin said Arroyo’s suggestion for the Congress to withdraw its membership in the International Parliamentary Union is “a diplomatic disaster and derogates our standing in international bodies.”
Administration lawmaker and Parañaque City Rep. Gus Tambunting said Arroyo’s position against the IPU should be respected.
“I respect the decision of the Speaker to call for the withdrawal of the Philippines from the IPU. I respect her opinion. Speaker GMA herself was once incarcerated because of a criminal case. She knows how it feels to be an accused in our country, yet she allowed the judicial processes to take their course,” said Tambunting, chairman of the House committee on ways and means.
“One of the fundamentals of international law is the respect which the international community owes to the sovereignty of each state. The Philippines cannot be unduly compelled to take actions which would violate our local laws and the respect we owe to our judicial system,” Tambunting added.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, said Arroyo’s recommendation for the Philippines to withdraw from the IPU was based on the wrong premise.
He said the IPU has yet to act on its Human Rights Committee’s recommendation to the IPU Governing Council.
“Having said that, it is premature, if at all, to denounce the IPU as a whole, much less withdraw membership from the body,” said Lacson.
He also said that by withdrawing from the IPU, it would imply that the Philippine Senate acknowledges the political persecution of opposition senators.
On the other hand, he said, the recent resolution of the coup d’etat case of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV by the Makati RTC Branch 148 is proof enough that the judicial process works in the Philippines.
Lacson also said this was an indication that the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary from the executive and legislative is evident and clear.
Furthermore, he said it it is the Senate, not the House of Representatives, that is a member of the IPU.
On the other hand, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he is inclined to support Arroyo’s proposal but after due consultation with his colleagues.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said the proposal to withdraw Philippine membership in the IPU borrows a page from the old pariah state playbook. “It is a fake assertion of sovereignty to defend the country’s culture of killing and impunity,” she said.
“It is also a virtual admission of guilt on the part of the Duterte government. It only confirms the IPU’s serious concerns about our country’s worsening human rights record,” she said.