MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte incorrectly based his threat to expel European ambassadors within 24 hours on news reports, and there are no plans to kick them out, his spokesman said Friday.

Duterte threatened in a fiery speech on Thursday to quickly send European envoys home as he accused their governments, without citing evidence, of plotting to have Manila “excluded” from the UN.

“You think we are a bunch of morons here. You are the one. Now the ambassadors of those countries listening now, tell me, because we can have the diplomatic channel cut tomorrow. You leave my country in 24 hours, all, all of you,” Duterte said.

Duterte’s spokesman, Ernesto Abella, issued a statement on Thursday night confirming the eviction threat but on Friday told reporters there had been no orders to send them home.

“There has been no directive to do that,” Abella told reporters when asked if European ambassadors should leave.

Abella said the presidential outburst was triggered by media reports about a small group of European lawmakers and aides who came to Manila to hold a press conference on to condemn the Philippines’ deadly drug war.

“Basically he (Duterte) was reacting to what he was reading,” Abella said, adding later that the president was “assuming” the reports were correct.

“So basically it’s a lesson for us also, for the neediness of critical reporting and reading of the news. So the president reacted like any leader would when national sovereignty has been violated. So we call upon the media to take heed of his request for accurate reporting.”

After Duterte issued the threat, the EU delegation to the Philippines clarified that the visitors were not a European Union mission. Abella agreed on Friday that it was the case.

Nevertheless, the visiting European lawmakers did not raise the prospect of the Philippines being kicked out of the United Nations, according to their official statement and various reports from major local media outlets.

Abella did not explain how Duterte made the assumption that they wanted the Philippines excluded from the UN.

Asked if the Philippine government had formally clarify Duterte’s comments with the European missions in Manila, Abella said: “I suppose all venues has been exhausted regarding that matter.”

A press officer from the EU delegation to the Philippines has told AFP on Friday that no official explanation has been conveyed to them by the Duterte government.

Duterte won the election last year after vowing to eradicate illegal drug trades within six months and vowing that 100,000 people would be killed in the process.

Police have since reported the killings of 3,850 people in the anti-drug operations while thousands of others have been murdered in an unexplained circumstances. — AFP



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