Malacañang on Saturday welcomed the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) adoption of the Philippines’ human rights report card.
In a statement, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said the final adoption of the Third Philippine Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Report by the 47-member body affirms Manila’s commitment to its human rights obligations.
“We welcome the United Nations Human Rights Council’s final adoption of the Third Philippine Universal Periodic Review Report. The adoption of the Philippine UPR Report in Geneva recognizes the human rights record of the Philippines and our country’s commitment to human rights under the leadership of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” Abella said.
“This likewise reaffirms our respect for the dignity of the Filipino people and the protection of the Filipino family as we strive for a better life in a society free of illegal drugs and other crimes,” he added.
Abella then lauded Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and all the members of the Philippine government UPR team for successfully presenting the country’s human rights policies to the international community.
“We congratulate the efforts of Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, together with Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Undersecretary Severo Catura of the Presidential Commission on Human Rights, the rest of the members of the Philippine government UPR team, PH Ambassador to the UN Evan Garcia and the team at the Philippine Mission to the UN in Geneva for their tireless efforts in explaining to the world our policies, practices, commitments and obligations in the area of human rights,” he said.
‘Zero tolerance’ on abuses
The Philippines’ human rights report card that states the Duterte government has “zero tolerance” for abuse by law enforcers tasked to pursue its war on drugs.
“The final adoption of our UPR Report during the 36th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva demonstrates that the Philippines has nothing to hide with its human rights record,” Cayetano said in a statement from New York City where he is attending the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly.
Then Senator Cayetano on May 8, 2017 led the 16-man Philippine delegation to the UPR where he presented to the UNHRC on how the country is dealing with human rights issues.
The UNHRC’s UPR is the world’s principal peer review mechanism where UN member-states discuss their human rights policies and plans, and exchange views on how to improve human rights through international cooperation.
“The Philippines will remain resolute in its respect for and protection of human rights as it strives to improve the lives and welfare of each and every Filipino by protecting them from the scourges of drugs and criminality,” Cayetano said.
“The Philippines remains fully committed to meeting its human rights obligations in compliance with the Constitution and international human rights obligations. The dignity of the Filipino people is uppermost among our priority concerns,” he added.
Ambassador Evan Garcia, Philippine permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, said the adoption was the result of the efforts of then Senator Cayetano and Guevarra to clearly explain to the UNHRC the country’s policies, including the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
He said that after a careful review and inclusive consultation with inputs from various stakeholders, especially from representatives from the state’s executive, legislative, and judicial departments were done, the Philippines committed to fully accept 103 out of the 257 recommendations it received.
The Philippines accepted the recommendations aimed at enhancing the government’s capacity to protect the right to life, liberty and property through the rule of law and accessibility of victims to justice in pursuit of anti-abortion initiatives, eradication of all forms of slavery, counter-terrorism efforts, and the anti-illegal drugs campaign.
Garcia said that Philippines could only note the other 154 recommendations because the country cannot guarantee or commit at this time to their fruition given that the results of processes required to implement them are beyond the sole control of any of the branches of the government.
“This is specifically true for recommendations that pertain to legislative action, which would require consultative processes with stakeholders,” he said.
Fighhting the drug problem
Since taking office in June 2016, Duterte has waged a war on illegal drugs, saying the drug problem that grew rampantly with the connivance of the previous administration are poisoning the youth and devastating the nation.
The Philippine National Police bared earlier this month that from July 1, 2016 to August 29, 2017, government agents conducted 70,854 anti-drug operations and arrested 107,156 drug personalities with 3,811 armed suspects killed during police operations.
Some international human rights organizations and western media have accused Duterte of encouraging extrajudicial killings, citing unverified reports that claimed over 7,000 were killed by Philippine police.
The Philippine government insisted there was no such thing as extrajudicial killings and those killed were suspects who resisted violently arrest by police.
Meanwhile, the Palace welcomed the recent survey of the Pew Research Center, an American think tank, which showed that the administration’s campaign against crime and illegal drugs continues to get unwavering support from the public.
The recent survey showed that 86 percent of Filipinos have a favorable view of President Duterte, while 78 percent of Filipinos approve of his handling of the illegal drugs issue.
The survey also revealed that 62 percent of Filipinos believe that the government is making progress in its campaign against illegal drugs.
“The campaign against illegal drugs, as the President said, would be relentless until the drug apparatus is dismantled, the last drug pusher is out of the streets, and the last drug trafficker behind bars,” Abella said.
with BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO