EU summons Philippine envoy to explain President Rodrigo Duterte's threat to hang EU critics of drug war

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the groundbreaking ceremony of a drug rehabilitation center in the province of Bukidnon.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the groundbreaking ceremony of a drug rehabilitation center in the province of Bukidnon.PHOTO: EPA

MANILA - The European Union has summoned the Philippine envoy in Brussels to explain an expletive-laden tirade by President Rodrigo Duterte threatening to hang EU officials opposing his bloody drug war.

The EU's External Action Service, the equivalent of a foreign office, said it summoned Charge d'Affaires Alan Deniega to its Brussels headquarters on Monday (March 27) afternoon to provide "an explanation for the recent, unacceptable comments of President Duterte".

The move highlights growing European exasperation with the 72-year-old leader.

Mr Duterte again lashed out at the EU last Friday for criticising his anti-narcotics crackdown that has so far led to over 7,000 killings of criminal suspects by police and vigilantes.

"I will just be happy to hang you. If I have the preference, I'll hang all of you," Mr Duterte said. "You are putting us down. You are exerting pressure in every country with the death penalty."

He also chastised the EU for suggesting "a health-based solution" to the Philippines' drug problem, calling the proposal a "government-sponsored idiotic exercise".

He claimed what the EU wanted was for the government to build clinics where methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin could be dispensed to addicts.

"They want us to build clinics, then we should, instead of arresting or putting them in prison like in other countries, you go there and if you want shabu they will inject you or give you shabu," he said.

"Then if you want cocaine, they will give you cocaine and if they want heroin, they will give you heroin."

The EU denied Mr Duterte's allegations, saying in a statement that it had not "suggested, discussed, proposed or considered the use of any substitution drugs when treating addiction to methamphetamine ... or any other drug addiction in the Philippines".

It said that in cooperation with the World Health Organisation and experts, it was working with the Department of Health and the Philippine government's main anti-drug agency and selected villages to implement a programme that "aims to support recovery from addiction, while keeping families together and facilitating development of social and job skills".

The voluntary programme plans to develop "recovery clinics and recovery homes", where patients can receive better care, education and counselling without prescribing medication and ensuring confidentiality. Livelihood skills will be taught, the EU said.

Mr Duterte's anti-crime drive has alarmed the EU, western governments and UN's rights officials.

He has said he will not be intimidated by critics' threats to impeach him or file a case against him before the International Criminal Court for the killings, mostly of poor drug dealers and users.

He has denied condoning extrajudicial killings but has repeatedly threatened drug suspects with death and said he is ready to rot in jail to protect Filipinos from atrocious crimes linked to drugs.

rdancel@sph.com.sg