MALACAÑANG on Thursday vowed to review recommendations made by 45 out of 47 countries before the United Nations Universal Periodic Review urging the government to investigate all cases of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
Despite the administration’s attempt to change the perception toward President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, the Philippine government still received a “failing grade” in the recently concluded UN Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights held in Geneva, Switzerland, a watchdog group said.
Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who co-chaired the Philippine team with Senator Alan Cayetano, thanked the UN for identifying areas for human rights improvement.
“To the best of our ability we tried to explain the underlying reasons for this campaign. That is to protect the human rights of the majority of our people who stand to potentially suffer the dark consequences of unmitigated abuse of illegal drugs and to set an environment conducive to further social economic development,” Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.
The Presidential Human Rights Committee would “review and determine what actions to take on your numerous recommendations,” he added.
Presidential Human Rights Committee spokesperson Rolando Gomez said that 50 states had voiced their concerns, and that it was now up to the government to make good on the promises it made.
Included in the 257 recommendations adopted by the 27th session of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group of the UN Human Rights Commission were proposals urging the Philippine government to “allow without conditions” UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Agnes Callamard to investigate the thousands of deaths blamed on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
Representatives from Canada and other European states spoke against extrajudicial killings in the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, as well as in politically motivated cases.
The Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and Slovakia, meanwhile, called for the implementation of a policy against the use of torture and safeguards against enforced disappearances, and arrests of perpetrators of rights abuses. States such as Estonia, Latvia and Hungary called for investigations of threats and attacks against journalists and human rights defenders.
While the government should continue its efforts to protect its people from the threat of drugs, it needs to uphold human rights values, the report said.
It also said that the Philippines should not reimpose the death penalty and should maintain the protection of the right to life, given that the country had committed to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
A watchdog group, the Philippine UPR Watch which were among the groups that observed the Geneva proceedings, called the Duterte administration to task for the continued climate of impunity despite previous recommendations for it to investigate cases of human rights violations and to prosecute the perpetrators.
“Despite attempts by the Philippine delegation to justify the Duterte administration’s war on drugs and to present a positive picture of its achievements on the political, economic, social and cultural rights of the people, most of the attending states still raised serious concerns on a host of human rights issues that remain unaddressed,” said Ephraim Cortez of the National Union of People’s Lawyers.
“However, it is gravely concerned that these recommendations still came up during the third cycle, despite having been noted in the previous two cycles of the UPR in 2008 and 2012. This is evidence not only of the lack of serious effort on the part of the Philippine Government to address these observations, but also of the ineffectiveness of its Philippine Human Rights Plan which did not at all help in curbing these violations,” Cortez added.
Incoming Foreign Affairs Secretary Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, however, seemed to reject the recommendations of the proceedings, urging the United Nations to send another investigator to look at the human rights situation in the country, particularly its record on killings
Cayetano expressed doubt over the accuracy of Callamard’s facts and her impartiality.
China, meanwhile, called on the international community to respect the Philippines’ national policy, particularly Duterte’s war on drugs.
China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said they are one of the 257 state participants that submitted recommendations during the session on Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council that reviewed the human rights situation in the Philippines.
He said that China supports Duterte’s national policy, recognizing the ill effect of drugs in the country.
“We hope the international community can respect the judicial sovereignty of the Philippines and support its efforts in fighting drug-related crimes through cooperation,” he said.
He also hoped that various parties can be objective and fair in viewing the human rights conditions in different countries.
Geng said that countries must also promote the human rights cause through dialogue and cooperation.
“Drugs are the common enemy for all human beings, bringing pains to many developing countries, including China,” Geng said.
UNIC said the 257 recommendation that the Philippines has received is not an “extraordinary” number, with 220 being the average.
While Cayetano tried to put a positive spin on the anti-drug war, the recommendations indicate that most UN member-states believe the allegations of extrajudicial killings are credible.
Cayetano has since been named Foreign Affairs secretary by President Rodrigo Duterte, under whom he ran but lost as vice president during the 2016 elections.
Also on Friday, Senator Francis Escudero chided Human Rights Commissioner Jose Luis Gascon for saying that the killings were state-sponsored, saying his ony basis for saying so were Duterte’s own words.
“If you look at the data, the number of those who were killed is almost the same with the number of the previous administration,” said Escudero.
“So whoever is killed, clearly is extrajudicial because we don’t have the death penalty. So whether state-sponsored or done privately or caused by a quarrel, it’s still killing, still extrajudicial and not yet assigned by the law,” said Escudero. With Macon Ramos Araneta
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