Duterte’s report on human rights omits UN concerns


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President Rodrigo Duterte painted only a partial picture of how member-states of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) view the human rights situation in the Philippines in his annual State of the Nation Address.


Stressing freedom from illegal drugs, terrorism, corruption and criminality as a human right and highlighting two executive orders he signed on child labor and on diversity and inclusion, Duterte said in his fifth SONA on July 27 that an “overwhelming number” of HRC members “extolled" these achievements at the council’s 44th session held from June 30 to July 17 in Geneva.

We issued last year Executive Order No. 100 establishing the Diversity and Inclusion Program as a national program of the Government. We want to end the discrimination of persons on the basis of age, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and other character traits.
My administration always believed that freedom from illegal drugs, terrorism, corruption and criminality, is itself a [human right].
Part of our efforts to uphold human rights is protection of the rights of children and the right against discrimination. Early last year, I signed Executive Order No. 92 creating the National Council Against Child Labor. Government efforts to protect the rights of children will be amplified to prevent, reduce and eliminate any form of child labor.
Our achievements along these lines have been extolled by an overwhelming number of our fellow member-States in the UN Human Rights Council, during its recently held 44th session last June.

On the contrary, at the interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in the Philippines on June 30, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet presented to the council the “very serious” findings of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the Duterte administration's human rights record.


The OHCHR report said laws and policies to counter national security threats and illegal drugs in the Philippines have severely impacted human rights and resulted in thousands of killings, arbitrary detentions and the vilification of those who challenge severe human rights violations. These people run the risk of being tagged as terrorists and enemies of the State, it said.


The report noted the “widespread and systematic” killings arising from Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, including the deaths of 73 children. Police operations were being carried out “without due regard for the rule of law, due process and the human rights of people who may be using or selling drugs,” it said.


The High Commissioner, who has been refused entry to the Philippines, also raised longrunning concerns of the perpetrators' “near impunity.”


Bachelet also took issue with the recent passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act which, she said, could blur distinctions between criticism, criminality and terrorism.


The OHCHR, however, reported laws the Philippines passed in recent years to advance human rights: on universal access to tertiary education and health care, mental health, sexual harassment, and children in situations of armed conflict, and Magna Cartas of women, the poor and persons with disabilities.


During the dialogue, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra rejected the OHCHR’s concerns even as he said the Duterte administration has created an interagency panel that has been conducting a judicious review since February of the 5,655 anti-illegal drugs operations where deaths occurred.


He said the panel, led by the Department of Justice, will engage affected families and the nongovernment sector in reevaluating the cases, with the Commission on Human Rights as an independent monitoring body.


As Duterte said in his SONA, several HRC members cited the positive assessment of the Philippines' promotion of economic and social rights, including on universal access to tertiary education, access to health and protection of children in situations of armed conflict.


They also welcomed Manila's continuing cooperation with the OHCHR, including on the campaign against illegal drugs.


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations said it recognized the Philippines’ efforts to establish mechanisms and address human rights issues related to its anti-illegal drugs campaign.


Vietnam, which delivered Asean’s position at the dialogue, also welcomed Manila’s intent to further widen engagement with the UN.


China and Russia disagreed with Bachelet’s negative findings on the Philippines, saying the OHCHR should be impartial, neutral and objective.


Russia said the HRC’s approach toward the Philippines was an example of “politicization” within the UN.


However, a number of member states, including the European Union and Canada, shared the OHCHR’s concerns on the extrajudicial killings, human rights violations and climate of impunity related to the war on drugs.


Strongly worded statements were issued by the Nordic countries—Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland—the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Liechtenstein, among others.


Liechtenstein expressed regret over Duterte’s decision to withdraw the Philippines from the Rome Statute amid the International Criminal Court’s preliminary examination of the extrajudicial killings. The statute established the court.


“This shows us that the Government of the Philippines does not undertakes all possible efforts to protect and prevent its populations from the most serious crimes and combat impunity for the killings of the past years,” it said.


New Zealand, Australia, the UK and Nordic countries expressed concern other violations of human rights, such as freedom of expression, of human rights defenders, activists and journalists.


The UK singled out the lawsuits against Rappler and shutdown of ABS-CBN. It said human rights defenders “should be able to operate without fear of reprisal.”


References


5th State of the Nation Address of Rodrigo Roa Duterte President of the Philippines to the Congress of the Philippines. (2020, July 27). Retrieved from https://pcoo.gov.ph/presidential-speech/5th-state-of-the-nation-address-of-rodrigo-roa-duterte-president-of-the-philippines-to-the-congress-of-the-philippines/


Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. (2020, June 30). Human Rights Council – 44th session Enhanced Interactive Dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Philippines: 30 June 2020 Australian Statement. Retrieved from https://www.dfat.gov.au/sites/default/files/44th-hrc-national-statement-id-hc-philippines.pdf


Damage control? Phl seeks ‘chance’ to look into drug war deaths on its own. (2020, July 3). One News. Retrieved from https://www.onenews.ph/damage-control-phl-seeks-chance-to-look-into-drug-war-deaths-on-its-own


Department of Justice. (2020, July 2). Statement on the Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on Human Rights in the Philippines at the On-Going 44th Session Of The United Nations Human Rights Council In Geneva, Switzerland. Retrieved from https://www.doj.gov.ph/news_article.html?newsid=661


Foreign and Commonwealth Office & French, R. (2020, June 30). UN Human Rights Council 44: Report on human rights situation in the Philippines. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/un-human-rights-council-44-report-on-human-rights-situation-in-the-philippines


New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade. (2020, June 30). 44th session of the Human Rights Council - Interactive Dialogue on the Human Rights Situation in the Philippines Ministry Speech Page: Statement delivered by Michelle McGillivray, Acting Permanent Representative, 30 June 2020. Retrieved from https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/media-and-resources/ministry-statements-and-speeches/44th-session-of-the-human-rights-council-interactive-dialogue-on-the-human-rights-situation-in-the-philippines-ministry-speech-page/


Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights. (2020, June 29). Situation of human rights in the Philippines: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session44/Documents/A_HRC_44-22.docx


Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights. (2020, June 30). 44th session of the Human Rights Council Enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in the Philippines: Statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 30 June 2020. Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26016&LangID=E


Permanent Mission of Denmark to UN Geneva. (2020, June 30). HRC44: Nordic countries address the human rights situation in the Philippines Item 2 – Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the human rights situation in the Philippines 30 June 2020 Statement by Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland Retrieved from https://fngeneve.um.dk/en/news/newsdisplaypage/?newsID=896DBBF8-BD1E-4656-8B56-52C4EDB5462A


Permanent Mission of the Principality of Liechtenstein. (2020, June 30). Enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in the Philippines 30 June 2020 by H.E. Ambassador Peter Matt, Permanent Representative of the Principality of Liechtenstein. Retrieved from https://www.regierung.li/media/medienarchiv/LI-Statement_Item_2_HRC44_Situation_of_Human_Rights_in_the_P.pdf?t=637315102507709823


Permanent Mission of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the UN Office and other International Organizations in Geneva. (2020, June 30). Enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in the Philippines: Statement delivered by Mr. Emin Aslanov, First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the UN Office and other International Organizations in Geneva. Retrieved from https://geneva.mfa.gov.az/files/Statement30.06.2020.pdf


Permanent Mission of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Nations. (2020, July 7). Statement by H.E. Hasan Kleib, Permanent Representative of the Republic Of Indonesia, at the Enhanced Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner Report On Human Rights Situation In The Philippines 30 July 2020. Retrieved from https://mission-indonesia.org/2020/07/07/statement-by-h-e-hasan-kleib-at-the-enhanced-interactive-dialogue-with-the-high-commissioner-report-on-human-rights-situation-in-the-philippines-30-july-2020/


Rocamora, J. (2020, July 1). Asean recognizes PH efforts to address HR issues. Retrieved from https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1107573

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