MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – It had slipped out of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's mind that he ordered a stop to all talks on grants and loans from 18 countries that backed a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) probe on his controversial drug war.
This was how Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo explained why he initially denied Duterte ever ordered the issuance of a Malacañang memorandum on these countries. The document was posted on the Bureau of Corrections (BOC) website.
"I asked him about it, he said, ‘I did call at the height of the Iceland resolution.’ But somehow, because of work probably, when I asked him about it, he momentarily forgot it," said Panelo on Monday, September 23, in an ANC interview.
"When I showed him the memo, when I asked him again, he remembered that there was such a memo," said Panelo later on Monday during a press briefing.
When asked by ANC anchor Christian Esguerra if it was surprising that Duterte would forget something as important as the memorandum, Panelo said, "No, you are making a lot of fuzz about this."
This is the analysis piece about other times Duterte got mixed up on important, far-reaching orders and decisions.
What loans, grants are affected? Panelo sought to downplay the impact of the memorandum.
"It will not dramatically, even slightly, I think, impact on our ecnomy," Panelo told reporters.
Because the memorandum only covers loans and grants being negotiated, the already signed loans and grants being implemented will still push through, he said.
The only pending assistance affected by the order is a 21-million-euro loan from the United Kingdom related to the Build, Build, Build infrastructure project of the Duterte administration.
"Out of the 18 countries involved, according to Secretary Dominguez, only UK has an offer of 21 million euros as loan with respect to Build Build Build project," said Panelo in the press conference.
The spokesman said he was given assurances by Dominguez that other financial institutions and entities, possibly including other states, could provide the 21-million-euro loan offered by the UK.
But Dominguez's statement, read out by Panelo, mentioned prospective assistance from Spain, France, and Germany as those being affected by the Palace order. It made no mention of any UK assistance.
Read out as "total pipeline [projects] which will be affected" by Panelo, the projects are:
France and Germany were not among the 18 who voted in favor of the Iceland-proposed resolution. However, they were among the 27 countries that supported it.
"I was made to understand that France and Germany were among those that sponsored the resolution," Dominguez told Rappler when asked to explain why he included those two countries in his tally of affected pending loans and grants.
The Palace memorandum covers future grants and loans from countries that "co-sponsored" the resolution.
Yet Panelo, in the briefing, said the France loan would push through since it was not among the countries that voted for the resolution.
"Eh di tuloy 'yung sa France. 'Yun lang bumoto," said Panelo. (Then the French one will continue. It covers only those who voted.)
Despite assurances from Dominguez and Panelo, it is difficult to quantify the amounts of loans and grants the 18 countries may have offered to the Philippines if the memo was not issued.
This is because the memo covers an indefinite time period. It will remain in effect "pending the assessment of [the Philippines'] relations with these countries" and "until lifted" by Malacañang.
'Not knee-jerk'? Panelo denied Duterte's memo was merely a "knee-jerk" response, or a response made, not based on thorough analysis of the situation, but on the President's emotions about the UNHRC resolution.
"It's not knee-jerk. They are the ones making a knee-jerk reaction, not based on facts and figures," he said in Filipino.
He had earlier said Duterte ordered the memo's issuance "at the height of that Iceland resolution."
Iceland was the country that filed the resolution last July which was eventually adopted by the UNHRC as a whole when 18 countries voted in favor of it. Fourteen countries had opposed the resolution while 15 abstained.
At the time, Duterte publicly mocked Iceland and threatened to cut ties with it.
The UNHRC resolution calls on the Duterte government to address accusations of human rights violations in its conduct of its anti-drug operations. It also calls on its chief, Michelle Bachelet, to write a comprehensive report on the Duterte anti-drugs campaign.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.