FOREIGN Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Sunday chided the 38 countries that recently called on President Duterte to put an end to killings in his administration’s crackdown against illegal drugs and instead cooperate with international bodies in the investigation of alleged human rights abuses.
Cayetano said the 38 countries are not actually interested in the truth about the human rights situation in the Philippines, but are more interested in using the issue as a political weapon against the Philippine government.
“We regret that Iceland and several other countries maintained their position despite our offer for them to visit the Philippines and objectively assess the human rights situation, especially at the community level,” Cayetano said in statement issued from New York where he is presiding over a command conference of Filipino diplomats from the Americas.
The Foreign Affairs sectary said he even invited Iceland Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson to visit the country to see for himself the human rights situation.
“Unfortunately, it seems our friends are not really interested in arriving at the truth and would rather rely on the misinformation being fed to them by parties that have politicized and weaponized human rights. Politics is politics but politicizing human rights endanger lives,” he said.
The 38 nations, including the United States before it left the United Nations Human Rights Council, United Kingdom, Iceland, Australia and France among others criticized Manila at the general debate of the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council last June 19 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Also joining the call were Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Crotia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Georgia, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Macedonia, Montenegro, Netherlands, new Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukriane.
The UNHRC, which has 47 member-states, including the Philippines, is holding its 38th Session from June 18 to July 6.
Besides calling for an end to killings associated with the anti-drug crackdown, the states also called on Manila to stop harassing human rights defenders, the Commission on Human Rights and members of the media.
The latest statement by the countries basically reiterated their call on the Philippines during the UNHRC’s session in September last year and March this year with Iceland drafting the statement.
It was Thordarson last March who urged the UNHRC to take further actions into investigations of alleged human rights violations in the Philippines in the conduct of the anti-drug war of the Duterte administration.
Thordarson also urged the Philippines to allow UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard to visit without any precondition or limitation so she could conduct an objective assessment of the human rights situation in the country.
The Philippine Mission to the United Nations in Geneva belittled the joint statement against the country saying some of those countries that signed the joint statement are actually facing rising xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments in their respective homelands.
“We are shocked by the persistent abusive and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, whether legal or otherwise, their lack of inclusion in society and their oftentimes woefully limited access to all kinds of services,” Philippine Permanent Representative Evan Garcia said in response to the criticism.
In exercising Manila’s right of reply during the general debate, Garcia cited numerous reports of exploitation of migrants under conditions of great vulnerability.
“We remind countries that have such severe shortcomings, including the United Kingdom and Australia, that the Philippines has preferred to engage with them in a positive manner, whether bilaterally or multilaterally” Garcia said, citing as examples the Global Forum for Migration and Development and in the ongoing negotiations for the Global Compact on Migration.
“This is in stark contrast with the needlessly confrontational attitude they have taken in the Human Rights Council,” he said.
He also noted that developing countries are hosting 80 percent of the world’s refugees today.
“It is a shame for developed countries to keep their eyes shut to this growing concern. The Philippines, a developing country even with its more than 100-million population, has been doing its small part in sharing the global burden of the protection of refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons and other persons of concern,” Garcia said.
Despite the criticism, the Philippines remains a responsible member of the Council, he said.
“We are respectful of our international human rights obligations. We remain a free, dynamic and democratic society. There is no basis, therefore, for the Council to be concerned with the situation in the Philippines,” Garcia said.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, meanwhile, urged the Duterte administration not to ignore the call by 38 countries.
“I welcome and echo the recent statement of the UN Human Rights Council urging the Philippine government to end the drug killings and cooperate in an investigation,” he said.
“The international community has been consistent in voicing out its opposition on the matter. This places additional pressure on the Philippine government to address its policy on illegal drugs,” he added.
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