VERA FILES FACT CHECK: DFA chief Locsin wrongly claims Duterte only leader who responded to Rohingya crisis

Read this fact check in Filipino

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. mistakenly claimed that only President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed willingness to welcome refugees of the Rohingya humanitarian crisis.


In a May 27 tweet, Locsin slammed a photo by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that talked about the rights of people to seek asylum from persecution.

Locsin, who was the Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the UN before he became Foreign Affairs Secretary, shared the photo on his Twitter account with the caption:

“And only the President of the Philippines, you useless bastards, has said his country the Philippines will welcome them with open arms, referring to the least welcome of refugees: Rohingya who aren't welcome even where they came from.”

Source: @teddyboylocsin, And only the President of the Philippines, May 27, 2019


Several countries, including the Philippines, have already accepted or have expressed willingness to accept refugees even before Duterte became president.

Former Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. in May 2015 said the Philippines would be willing to accept up to 3,000 refugees as a signatory of the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Malaysia and Indonesia likewise agreed in May 2015 to rescue and provide temporary refuge for up to 7,000 Rohingya migrants. In May 2018, the UNHCR thanked Malaysia and Indonesia for their role in rescuing 140 refugees who fled Myanmar in April that year.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Children’s Fund reported that as of April 2019, over 1.2 million refugees have fled and settled in Cox’s Bazar District in neighboring Bangladesh, “effectively forming the world’s largest refugee camp.”

However, the Bangladeshi government told the UN Security Council on February 2019 that it could not accept any more refugees due to worsening conditions in Cox’s Bazar.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) said the Muslim Rohingya people, who reside in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine, have been subjected to decades of “systematic discrimination, statelessness and targeted violence.” The latest of these is a crackdown by the Burmese military since 2016.

Medical non-governmental organization Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, in December 2017 reported that at least 9,000 Rohingya people died in Myanmar from August to September 2017, with at least 6,700 deaths “caused by violence.”

MSF medical director Sidney Wong said these figures were “likely to be an underestimation.”

An August 2018 study by non-governmental organization Ontario International Development Agency reported that at least 24,000 Rohingyas were killed from August 2017 to January 2018 in what has been called “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide.”

Duterte had said on April 5, 2018, that he is willing to accept Rohingya refugees, whom he described as victims of “genocide,” but that European countries should also take in refugees. He apologized for the comment a week after, following backlash from the Myanmar government.

The President reiterated his willingness to take in refugees in a Feb. 26 speech, again criticizing Europe for its “inaction” on the crisis.

However, the Philippines has consistently voted against several UN resolutions to condemn and address the human rights situation in Myanmar due to alleged “politicization” of the issue.

The UN OCHA said a Joint Response Plan to address the Rohingya crisis was launched on February 2019, requesting $920.5 million to “provide life-saving assistance to 1.2 million people, including Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar to Bangladesh and local host communities.”

The group said the appeal is 17 percent funded as of April 2019.


Teodoro Locsin Jr.’s official Twitter account, And only the President of the Philippines, May 27, 2019

Rappler, PH open to sheltering 3,000 ‘boat people,’ May 18, 2015

CNN, Lost at sea, unwanted: The plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya ‘boat people,’ May 20, 2015

The Telegraph, Philippines to accept refugees stuck at sea after being rejected across south-east Asia, May 30, 2015

Newsweek, Indonesia and Malaysia agree to take Rohingya and Bangladeshi boat migrants, May 20, 2015

The Guardian, Indonesia and Malaysia agree to offer 7,000 migrants temporary shelter, May 20, 2015

The New York Times, Indonesia and Malaysia Agree to Care for Stranded Migrants, May 20, 2015

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR thanks Indonesia and Malaysia for rescue and disembarkation of Rohingya refugees, calls on countries in the region to comply with maritime search and rescue obligations, May 1, 2018

United Nations Children’s Fund, Rohingya crisis

United Nations, Crisis in Rakhine State, Violence Could Derail Gains in Myanmar’s Peace Process, Special Envoy Warns Security Council, Calling for Unimpeded Humanitarian Access, Feb. 28, 2019

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the Awarding of Outstanding Farmers, Fisherfolks and Coastal Communities (Gawad Saka 2017 and Malinis at Masaganang Karagatan 2017), April 5, 2018

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech and Press Conference of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte upon his Arrival from his Participation to the Boao Forum For Asia In Hainan, China and Working Visit to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, April 13, 2018

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the 2019 General Assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP), Feb. 26, 2019

United Nations, Third Committee Approves 13 Drafts on Persons with Disabilities, Ageing, Human Trafficking amid Protracted Votes on Human Rights in Syria, Myanmar, Nov. 16, 2018

United Nations, Third Committee Approves 16 Drafts with Friction Exposed in Contentious Votes on Glorification of Nazism, Cultural Diversity, Right to Development, Nov. 16, 2017

United Nations Human Rights Council, Human Rights Council adopts 10 resolutions and one Presidential statement, Sept. 28, 2018

Medicins Sans Frontieres, MSF surveys estimate that at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed during the attacks in Myanmar, Dec. 12, 2017

Ontario International Development Agency, Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience, August 2018

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)


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