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Fake news: EU threatens trade sanctions

I’M BAFFLED why not a few journalists still think that they are mere stenographers, reporting whatever this or that jerk says, and even make it their newspapers’ front-page banner story.

Consider one newspaper’s banner headline yesterday: “Govt urged: Act on EU call.” It quoted at length this obscure labor leader’s claim that if government does not “act on that EU call” — which is, among other things, to release an unrepentant American journalist convicted for libel by the Manila Regional Trial Court and withdraw the Anti-Terrorism Law passed in July — the country will suffer “more unemployment and loss of business opportunities” as a result of Europe’s trade sanctions.

This labor lawyer even pretends to be knowledgeable, claiming that we stand to risk the imposition of tariffs on 6,274 products to the European Union market that, at present, have zero tariffs under the Generalized System of Preferences. That newspaper competed in ignorance with the forever-Yellow Philippine Daily Inquirer’s headline: “EU sanctions on PH to cut 200K jobs, labor group warns.”

These are essentially fake news. The EU didn’t threaten trade sanctions.

For starters, this recent resolution by the European Parliament (EP) is a rehash of its April 2018 resolution (2018/2662 RSP), which simply repeated the Yellows’ and especially Rappler’s claim of “12,000” killed in President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug war, when the actual figure at that time was just 3,000.

The only difference in the 2020 resolution is that it is updated to include among its demands the reopening of the ABS-CBN broadcast network, the dropping of all charges against Maria Ressa, and the withdrawal of the Anti-Terrorism Law.

As in the more recent resolution, the 2018 resolution had implied the threat of a trade sanction by ending the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) privileges for the Philippines. Nothing came out of that threat, of course. The EP doesn’t have any authority over such things as trade policy.

It is not the European Union that has threatened us with trade sanctions. It is merely members of the EP, which issued the resolution expressing “alarm” over alleged human rights abuses and other Yellow and communist issues. This resolution is as important as, say, Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo expressing alarm over the dumping of white dolomite on the Manila Bay coast.

The resolution didn’t even say that the EP threatens to impose the sanctions, but asked the European Commission — the real power in the EU — to “initiate procedure which could lead to temporary withdrawal of GSP preferences” in the “absence of any substantial improvement [in regard to] human rights violations.” The European Commission has never undertaken such withdrawal of GSP preferences, there isn’t even a clear “procedure” to do so, and would require the agreement of all 27 members of the European Union.

The EP is just one of the institutions — the weakest and most vulnerable to manipulation by Left parties — of the EU, which consists of 27 countries in Europe. The institution that actually runs the European Union is the European Commission, consisting of 27 members designated by each of the member states’ government.

In contrast, the members of the European Parliament are each elected in special elections for such purpose by voters in each member country. What often happens is that there is little interest in such elections — or the ruling or main parties concede such seats to minority parties as a concession — so much so that it is the representatives from the small parties, or even independents, who are elected.

Left parties
Thus, more than 40 percent of EP members are from the Left and from environmental parties, rather than from mainstream parties in the EU countries. It is not surprising that the current European Parliament president was formerly a TV anchorman, the equivalent of GMA 7’s Arnold Clavio.

Yes, the EP does make laws, but most, if not all of its laws, apply to the citizens of the EU and none that would have an impact on foreign relations. The EP can’t even initiate laws. It can work on enacting a law only if the European Commission asks it to do so. Thus, the EP is seen in Europe merely as a “pan-European soapbox” playing to the bleachers of thousands of Brussels-based journalists.

It is the same EP members that pushed for both the 2018 and the more recent resolution. Who are these? About three-fourths of these are from Eastern European countries, that is, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovenia. They even have weird, unpronounceable names requiring special characters such as Željana Zovko, Jiří Pospíšil, Luděk Niedermayer, Stanislav Polčák, Michaela Šojdrová, Petras Auštrevičius and Ruža Tomašić.

I don’t think these EP members even know where the Philippines is, nor can they speak English, which explains that they haven’t read accurate information materials on the Philippines. So, why did they sign the resolution against us? The only logical explanation is that Communist Party head Jose Ma. Sison’s network of nongovernment organizations in Europe lobbied these Leftist parties.

These Leftist parties asked other parties to support the resolution, obviously in this case the most immature or weak EP members, those from Eastern Europe. Since the resolution doesn’t affect at all their interests, and as is the dynamic in parliaments everywhere, other EP members agreed to the resolution as these would be a kind of marker, an IOU that they can collect from the Left parties when the time comes that they need their support for their own resolutions.

The resolution though is a propaganda victory for the communists in demonizing President Duterte before the world. Indeed, the Communist Party of the Philippines hurriedly applauded the EP resolution, issuing a statement the other day: “Much like Marcos before his ouster, Duterte has now become an international pariah, the EP vote confirms how isolated the Duterte regime is, not only from the Filipino people but from the international community as well.”

I say f**k this EP resolution. However, we can draw very important lessons from this episode.

First, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Presidential Communications Operations Office must step up their work in disseminating to the European Union — which appears to be the main locus for the communists’ propaganda work — the real state of affairs in the Philippines, even to the extent of having these translated to Serbian, Czech or whatever.

We don’t even have a delegation to the EU, and our representative to it, Eduardo Jose de Vega, doubles as our ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg. Did he even alert the DFA that the European Parliament was coming out with this resolution? Has he even tried to send information materials on the issues the EP raised to its members? Has the DFA even sent the EP its objection to the resolution, together with documents to show that its allegations are patently false?

The Indians didn’t take the EP’s transgressions on their sovereignty sitting down. When the EP early this year was moving to issue a resolution protesting India’s 2019 Citizenship Amended Act (CAA), claiming that it was discriminatory against Muslims, India launched a diplomatic offensive against it. India claimed that the CAA is an “internal matter for the country and has been adopted through due process and democratic means.” That argument is certainly applicable to our Anti-Terrorism Law and the journalist’s conviction the EP wants the government to withdraw.

I applaud Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s quick condemnation of the EP resolution as “a misguided and misinformed infringement on Philippine sovereignty.” He should get the House of Representatives, which he leads, and convince the Senate to issue resolution condemning the EP resolution and even tell the Eastern Europeans there to learn English first. Parliament vs Parliament.

As a result of India’s efforts to explain its side, a spokesman for EU foreign and security policy issued a statement on the issue: “The opinions expressed by the European Parliament and its members do not represent the official position of the European Union.”

The EP plotters quietly withdrew the resolution.

Second, another lesson here is that the communists’ propaganda network has become so influential in the EP that we just have to live with it, and hope that our local journalists realize what b******t EP resolutions are and that they should not play up such reports.

And third, this episode could or should backfire on the communists, as they got the EP to issue two similar resolutions already with hardly any real impact. The first — as well as former senator Antonio Trillanes 4th and Vice President Robredo’s similar campaigns in Europe to demonize Duterte — has not dented Duterte political base nor his popularity, and I don’t think this last EP resolution will make him, as the communists hope, an “international pariah.”

Duterte might as well play the role the communists and the EU claim he is playing. Short of such extrajudicial crimes as lining them up against a wall and executing them, Duterte might as well bring down the entire apparatus of the state to end, finally, the communist insurgency.

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