DFA chief: Independent foreign policy is mandated by Constitution

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(File photo) DFA Sec. Perfecto "Jun" Yasay Jr.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte was reiterating a mandate of the Constitution when he said the country will pursue an "independent foreign policy" in its international relations, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay told CNN Philippines on Saturday.

Duterte made the statement upon arriving in the Philippines early Saturday morning after a five-day overseas trip.

"We will observe and must insist on the time-honored principles of sovereignty, sovereign equality, non-interference," Duterte said in his arrival speech. The President was in Laos from September 6 to 8 for the 2016 ASEAN Summit. He arrived in Indonesia on Thursday night for a working visit with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

"I'm surprised why people make a fuss about the President pursuing and independent foreign policy, when that is in fact mandated by the Constitution… Maybe perhaps in the past, this constitutional mandate has not been followed strictly. But in so far as the President is concerned, he vowed to pursue this independent policy very firmly," Yasay said.

Yasay pointed out that an independent policy calls for other states to respect the country's domestic affairs. "Independent foreign policy must also be understood in the community of nations that they cannot unduly interfere in the domestic affairs of our country," said Yasay.

He cited the Philippines' fight against illegal drugs as an example: "People had arbitrarily accused the President of violating human rights. He also said that Duterte "firmly denies" the accusations and has committed to investigate allegations of extrajudicial killings.

"When he (Duterte) says this, and people insist that he has violated (human rights) without any proof, this is something that I feel interferes - and he feels interferes — with the domestic affairs of the country," said Yasay.

"Those who say the Philippines violates the human rights of people in this war against illegal drugs are people who have [a] dismal record of human rights during the time of their colonial adventurism. And this is precisely what the President is trying to drive at — you have lost any moral authority to lecture us on what Human Rights is all about." The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) chief did not specifically say who these "people" are.

Yasay also pointed out that an independent foreign policy certainly does not involve isolating the country from the international community. For example, he said that the country "will continue to forge very strong alliances" with the U.S. "There are a lot of projects in the works that require our joint-cooperation, even insofar as enabling us in our enforcement capabilities against drug addiction, criminality and so on," Yasay said.

"When we say that we want to forge also closer ties with China, it does not mean we are alienating the United States from the close friendship or vice-versa. As our Consitution mandates, we will pursue amity among all nations in a balanced manner," Yasay added.

Article II, Section 7 of the Constitution explicitly states that "The State shall pursue and independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination."