Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) recently told world leaders at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland that the Philippines is resolutely and uncompromisingly committed to human rights and firmly adheres to due process and strict observance of the rule of law.
Yasay spoke before the world leaders last February 27 at the opening of the High Level Segment of the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council, saying the adherence to human rights is in line with the mandate of the Philippine Constitution and with the country’s obligations under existing human rights treaties.
He said the Philippine is a champion of human rights in the United Nations, reminding world leaders that in 1947 the country was among the members of the first UN Commission on Human Rights, which drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Six decades later, in 2006, the Philippines became a founding member of the Human Rights Council.
“Abiding respect for human rights is deeply rooted in the Filipino national consciousness, forged by historical experiences. Fundamental freedoms and human rights are vital” to Filipinos and the nation and “are held sacrosanct by Philippine laws,” Yasay said.
He clarified that the over-arching rationale for the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign was to uphold the people’s right to “safe communities” and to protect the Filipino public “from the deadly scourge of drugs,” citing that over 30 percent of the country’s population are under the age of 14.
“Like any other country, we want safe communities that will develop and nurture our people, especially our young, into becoming citizens who are fully abloom with their potentials,” Yasay said.
He added that the “higher and larger human rights issues are the human right to life, to a bright tomorrow and the pursuit of happiness and progress for the [people].”
“The government abides by its solemn duty to uphold rule of law and due process as required under the Philippine justice system and remains resolute in continuing to promote, protect and uphold human rights of all persons within its jurisdiction,” Yasay said.
His presence at the Human Rights Council in Geneva demonstrates the Philippines’ commitment to its international obligations, in particular with the United Nations and its mechanisms.
The Philippines, Yasay said, shares the view that the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) is essentially a forum and platform for multilateral dialogue, constructive engagement, understanding and cooperation among states and other relevant stakeholders for the promotion, protection and fulfillment of all human rights.
The Philippines is among the 47 member states of the HRC, sitting for 2016-2018.
The council is the principal organ of the United Nations dealing with the promotion and protection of human rights.
Yasay is the second Foreign Affairs head who participated in the High-Level Segment, the first being Alberto Romulo, who also addressed the HRC at its 7th Session in March 2008.
The UN Human Rights Council is headquartered at the UN Office in Geneva and meets for its regular sessions thrice a year, i.e., March, June and September.
The March session features high-level dignitaries from UN member-states. For this year, 107 dignitaries, including the President of Palestine, are lined up for the three-day High-Level Segment.
Yasay was among the first speakers out of the 107 dignitaries from all over the world.
This is the biggest number of dignitaries who have addressed the Human Rights Council.
Dignitaries who spoke in the morning session included Antonio Guterres, the new UN Secretary General; Peter Thompson, president of the UN General Assembly; Mahmoud Abbas, President of Palestine; and the Foreign Ministers of Croatia, Portugal, Slovakia, Paraguay and El Salvador. JAIME R. PILAPIL