ASEANEWS HEADLINES: Manila – ’38 nations seek end to ‘killings’

The 47-member UNHRC said it might take action if the government fails to fulfill its international human rights obligations. It did not elaborate.Edd Gumban/File

Thirty-eight states, including Spain, France, Britain, Australia, and Germany, have urged the Philippine government to put an end to drug killings and to cooperate in an investigation—a call immediately pooh-poohed by Malacañang.

“We urge the government of the Philippines to take all necessary measures to bring killings associated with the campaign against illegal drugs to an end and cooperate with the international community to investigate all related deaths and hold perpetrators accountable,” Iceland said on behalf of 38 states during the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

But Malacañang ridiculed the international human rights group’s concern over human rights situation in the country, telling the 38 UNHRC member-states the Philippines was applying its own rule in investigating abuses particularly on its drug war.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the government did not need to be called out to conduct a  probe on alleged human rights abuses because the police and other law enforcement and government agencies were doing their part to look into reports of abuses.

“Well, even without the call, Congress has already implemented the law. We have already conducted inventories on the deaths of suspected drug dealers and users in the ongoing war versus illegal drugs,” Roque said.

In a related development:

• In the House, lawmakers on Saturday expressed differing views on the Council statement urging the Philippine government to put an end to drug killings and to cooperate in an investigation.

Reps. Rodolfo Albano III of Isabela and Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur shrugged off the UN Human Rights Council statement.

Albano defended the administration’s war on drugs.

“We are investigating all drug-related killings already,” said Albano, majority leader for the House contingent’s Commission on Appointments.

In fact, Albano said the Philippine government might withdraw from the Council because of its alleged bias against the Duterte administration’s policy on the war on drugs.

“Let us do a Trump, let us leave the UN body,” Albano added., referring to US President Donald Trump’s statement that Washington was withdrawing from the UN Council.

Pimentel echoed Albano’s view.  “We can always withdraw from the Council just like what the United States did.”

Besides, Pimentel said, there was no proof that the extrajudicial killing was being perpetrated by the government. “The deaths [were] a result of legitimate buy-bust drug operations,” Pimentel, chairman of the House committee on good government, said.

But Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said: “President Duterte is indeed famous worldwide in his brutal war on drugs which already claimed thousands of Filipino lives in the country.”

Alejano said the fact remained his war on drugs “violates the constitutional due process [of law] and respect for human rights.”

Rep. Gus Tambunting of Parañaque City said he respected the statement of the Council.

“The government has been firm that the human rights of our people must be respected,” Tambunting, chairman of the House committee on games and amusement, said.

But opposition Rep. Tom Villarin of Akbayan said the Philippine government should listen to the call of the UN Human Rights body.

“I think the Philippine government should heed this call by the UN Human Rights Council unless it wants to be tagged as the deadliest country in the world with respect to human rights violations,” Villarin said.

He added the statement of the UN Human Rights body “also serves as a warning that inaction would mean that the international criminal court can now proceed with the much-anticipated investigation on the deaths of thousands by President Duterte’s war on drugs.”

He added:  “It will signal other UN bodies to look into possible sanctions against the Philippines for such impunity. It’s long overdue and should be the tipping point for the end of Duterte’s reign of terror.”

In Malacañang, Roque insisted the government was looking into allegations if due process was being followed or not.

“We don’t need the call of other countries. We are doing it even without the call of UNHRC,” Roque said in a text message.

In a joint statement, the UNHRC said that they were “encouraged by reports that the Government of the Philippines has indicated a willingness to cooperate with the UN to allow an objective assessment of the human rights situation in the country.”

“We urge the Government of the Philippines to cooperate with the United Nations system—including the Human Rights Council and its special procedure mandate holders—without preconditions or limitations,” the UNHRC added

The statement also said the group was concerned over alleged harassment of members of the Commission on Human Rights and those exercising the freedom of opinion and expression, including human rights defenders and journalists.

“We call upon the Philippines to provide and guarantee a safe and secure environment for all, including journalists and Human Rights defenders,” it said. /  posted June 24, 2018 at 01:40 am by Vito Barcelo and Maricel V. Cruz

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