Rodrigo Duterte
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Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said Duterte’s statement ‘is a statement expressing profound disappointment and frustration’. File photo: EPA

‘We certainly are not leaving the UN’: Philippines foreign minister in damage control after Duterte’s latest tirade

When a United Nations human rights expert criticised the extra-judicial killings committed under the Philippines’ anti-drug campaign, its president responded with a threat

The Philippines is not leaving the United Nations, the foreign minister said on Monday, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to quit the body after it called for an end to the wave of killings unleashed by his war on drugs.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said Duterte’s statement “is a statement expressing profound disappointment and frustration”.

“We certainly are not leaving the UN,” Yasay told a news conference at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Duterte was angered by statements made by a UN official condemning the increasing number of vigilante-type killings in the country, which have hit about 1,800.

“Maybe we just have to separate from the United Nations. If you are that rude, we might just leave the organisation,” Duterte told a news conference in Davao City on Sunday, referring to the UN critics.

Duterte, a lawyer famous for an acid tongue who has repeatedly told the UN not to interfere, on Sunday stepped up his rhetoric against the organisation. Photo: EPA

Duterte even said that he might as well form a rival organisation with China and other African nations.


Duterte’s spokesperson, Ernesto Abella, also told a separate news conference at the Malacalanang presidential palace that the Philippines is not “decoupling” from the UN.

“He is simply reiterating national sovereignty and the fact that he did not welcome interventions or what you would consider meddling. He was stating the fact that the Philippines is a sovereign nation and should not be meddled with,” Abella said.

The UN’s special rapporteur on summary executions, Agnes Callamard, last week said Duterte’s promise of immunity and bounties to security forces who killed drug suspects violated international law.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in June also strongly criticised Duterte, who during the election campaign promised to kill 100,000 people and dump so many bodies in Manila Bay that the fish would grow fat from feeding on them.

An activist lights candles to denounce the extra-judicial killings against alleged suspects involved in illegal drugs. Photo: Xinhua

“I unequivocally condemn his apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms,” Ban said.

Duterte frequently peppers his public comments with swear words - he has also called Pope Francis and the US ambassador to Manila sons of whores - and days after his election win used typical language to criticise the UN.

“F*** you, UN, you can’t even solve the Middle East carnage... couldn’t even lift a finger in Africa,” he said then.

Duterte lashed out in a similar fashion on Sunday, accusing the “stupid” UN of not doing anything in Middle East hotspots Syria and Iraq.

The body of a man is pictured with a gun under his hand, whom police said was killed during a drug bust operation in Manila. Photo: Reuters
Duterte referenced a haunting photo taken last week of a little Syrian boy, who was pictured sitting in an ambulance dazed and covered in blood after an air strike, as evidence of the UN’s ineffectiveness.

“Is that stupid body complaining about the stench there of death. Look at the iconic boy taken out of the rubble. When he was made to sit in the ambulance, and we saw it. So what’s the difference?”

And Duterte asked why police killings in the United States were not attracting the same kind of criticism as the Philippines.

“What do you think the Americans did to the black people there? Is that not rubbing off also? And (critics) say what?”

Duterte also accused the UN of doing nothing for the Philippines - ignoring its poverty reduction programmes and enormous help following typhoons and other natural disasters.


On the day he was sworn into office, Duterte called for people in slums to kill neighbours whom they believed were drug addicts, repeating a campaign line.

His aides have since said such comments are merely hyperbole and not meant to be taken literally.

The number of drug-related killings since Duterte took power in May and began his anti-narcotics war has doubled to about 1,800, police said on Monday.


Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa told a Senate committee investigating extrajudicial killings that 712 drug traffickers and users had been killed during police operations. Police were also investigating 1,067 drug-related killings outside police work, Dela Rosa said.

Duterte has repeatedly insisted police have only killed in self defence, while maintaining the other deaths are due to drug syndicates killing each other.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Xinhua

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Official: Manila still committed to United Nations