MANILA – Malacañang expressed optimism Thursday that the Philippines’ vote favoring the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) investigation into alleged human rights violations and abuses in Gaza would not hurt the country’s “excellent” bilateral ties with Israel.

“‘Yung boto pong iyan sa UN Human Rights Council does not in any way or should not in any way affect our excellent bilateral relations with Israel,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual presser. “Wala naman pong kinalaman iyan sa napakalapit na samahan natin (It has nothing to do with our very close ties) with the state of Israel.”

Roque issued the statement after the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned Philippine Ambassador to Tel Aviv Macairog Alberto to clarify the Philippines’ vote backing the UNHRC probe into alleged Israeli war crimes and actions in the Gaza Strip.

On May 27, the UNHRC adopted a resolution establishing an investigation into alleged violations surrounding the latest Gaza violence and the “systematic” abuses in the Palestinian territories and inside Israel.

The Philippines is among the 24 UNHRC state-members that voted in favor of the investigation that prompts an unprecedented level of scrutiny on abuses and their “root causes” in the decades-long Middle East conflict.

Roque explained that President Rodrigo Duterte had given the Philippine delegation to the UNHRC the freedom to decide on the issues concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza.

“The President does not micromanage. Sapagkat (Because) although he is the chief architect of foreign policy, ‘yung paano po boboto ang ating delegasyon sa UN Human Rights Council ay pinapaubaya po niya sa ating delegasyon (he let our delegation to the UN Human Rights Council to vote on their own),” he said.

Gilad Cohen, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy director general for the Asia-Pacific, said the Philippines’ vote is “unacceptable to Israel, and constitutes a reward for terrorism.”

Roque assured Israel that the Philippines will maintain its good relations with Israel despite its vote backing the UNHRC resolution.

“Isa sa inaasahan ni Presidente na tumulong lalung-lalo na sa modernization ng ating hukbong sandatahan ay ang bansang Israel. Inaayos po natin nonstop flights from Israel to the Philippines (The President expects Israel to help the Philippines in the modernization of our armed forces. We are also pushing for nonstop flights from Israel to the Philippines),” he said.

Israeli forces and the Hamas militant group have agreed to a ceasefire to end an 11-day conflict that claimed the lives of at least 231 Palestinians and 12 Israelis.

The ceasefire entered into force after Egypt and Qatar brokered an agreement between the two parties to stop the war. (PNA)