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Philippines keeps UNHRC seat

Malacañang and outgoing Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano welcomed the Philippines’ reelection to another three-year term in the United Nations Human Rights Council, with the former saying this manifested the country’s continuing war on illegal drugs did not violate human rights.

Some 3,000 people have been killed since Rodrigo Duterte won the presidential elections in 2016  where he vowed to stop illegal drugs in the country.

Duterte had said the war on drugs was necessary to prevent the country becoming a “narco-state.”

“[The] vote of 165 out of the 192 votes cast by member-states is a recognition that our government respects human rights and will not tolerate abuse by those in authority,” Palace spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

He said that getting a seat in the UNHRC was a repudiation of the critics and detractors of Duterte’s unrelenting war against illegal drugs.

The country will be among 47-member states of the council from 2019 to 2021, following its election in 2015. 

The Philippines first served in the Council from 2007 to 2009, and then from 2012 to 2014.

Cayetano, who will be succeeded by Ambassador Teodoro Locsin Jr., welcomed the development, after international group Human Rights Watch called on the UN body to reject the Philippines’ reelection bid.

“Our successful bid to keep our seat in the Council is proof that many in the international community remain convinced the Philippines respects and protects human rights and have seen through the efforts of some to politicize and weaponize the issue,”  Cayetano said in a statement.

The HRW had said UN countries must show their outrage against the Philippines and Eritrea by keeping them off the council. 

The group cited the administration’s drug war, citing more than 12,000 suspected drug dealers have been killed in anti-drug operations—a huge jump from the government data showing 4,000 have been neutralized—as well as the attacks on human rights defenders.

“Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s abusive ‘war on drugs’ has been a killing frenzy that has left thousands dead,” the HRW said. 

The group also cited the bundle of verbal attacks against UN representatives such as Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard and High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who have made public statements against the administration’s war on drugs.

But Cayetano said critics of the Philippine government’s war against drugs are merely being loud to solicit more funds from donors.

Panelo said the country’s reelection proved that Duterte’s unrelenting campaign against illegal drugs, corruption, and criminality had been acknowledged by the international community.

“The community of nations has viewed the drug menace as a global problem requiring its utmost attention in forcefully dealing with it and forging a united front against the purveyors of its proliferation across the frontiers of the world,” Panelo said.

“We thank and commend the UN Human Rights Council, as well as the States that supported our country’s bid, for affirming the Philippines’ brand of human rights advocacy under the Duterte administration as truly responsive to our people’s needs and aspirations for a better and more dignified life,” he added.             

The UN General Assembly also elected the following member-states: Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Czech Republic, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, India, Italy, Somalia, Togo and Uruguay.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights, through spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia, in a statement said the CHR welcomed the country’s winning a seat in the UNHRC.

But she pointed out, “Earning a seat in the council puts pressure on the Philippine government to address allegations of human rights violations, starting with the growing cases of extrajudicial killings purportedly linked to the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.”

She also stressed that the country’s credibility in the UN body would be defined by the present administration’s ability to address rights violations issues.

“The Philippines’ credibility to be part of this body rests on its ability to effect actions that will concretely address these allegations, in line with its mandate of promote, protect, and fulfill the human rights of all and not just of a select few,” De Guia added.

Topics: Alan Peter Cayetano , United Nations Human Rights Council , war on illegal drugs , Rodrigo Duterte
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