MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines decried what it said was interference in its internal affairs by the European Parliament, which urged the Southeast Asian nation in a resolution to end “extrajudicial killings” and halt plans to bring back the death penalty.
About 4,100 people have been killed by police in the Philippines since President Rodrigo Duterte took power in late June 2016 in what the authorities say were shootouts during anti-narcotics operations. Activists say many of those killings were executions, which police deny.
At least 2,300 drug-related deaths have occurred separately, at the hands of what police say are unknown assassins.
The European lawmakers on Thursday condemned Philippine authorities for “trying to justify these murders with falsified evidence”, which Manila said was meddling and based on wrong information.
“The European Parliament has crossed a red line when it called for unwarranted actions against the Philippines,” Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement late on Thursday.
The European Parliament and its members have criticized the Philippines’ brutal anti-narcotics crackdown several times, infuriating Duterte, who has directed his frustration on the European Union, rather than its legislative branch.
The EU is an important source of development aid, commerce and investment for the Philippines.
European lawmakers also called on Manila to remove what they called human rights defenders from its list of what it considers as “terrorists”, including Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.
They also condemned “the intimidation and the abuse” of human rights activists and journalists, and said Duterte’s push to reintroduce the death penalty was against its international obligations.
“In case the members of the European Parliament are not aware of it, may we remind them that their recommended actions already constitute interference in the affairs of a sovereign state,” Cayetano added.
He said the resolution was based on “biased, incomplete and even wrong information and does not reflect the true situation on the ground”.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch applauded the European Parliament for adopting the resolution and for its support for international efforts to investigate the Philippine crackdown.
“It is a timely and forceful message from the EU parliamentarians putting President Duterte and his backers on notice – that continued grave abuses will come at a price,” its researcher, Carlos Conde, said in a statement.
(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Michael Perry)