Philippines promises to review U.N. concerns over killings
Nearly 50 states voiced concern regarding extra-judicial killings related to the so-called "war on drugs" in the Philippines during a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session on Thursday dedicated to the country's review.
The Council adopted a final report comprising 257 recommendations submitted by 95 states and told the Philippines to report back "with a clear position" on the recommendations at its September session.
Among the recommendations, many called on the Philippines to put an end to extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, to thoroughly investigate these extra-judicial killings and hold those responsible accountable.
Among these was a recommendation from the United States for the Philippines to "ensure that all counter-narcotics operations are conducted in conformity with constitutional protections and international human rights obligations".
Menardo Guevarra, senior deputy executive secretary in President Rodrigo Duterte's office, said the Presidential Human Rights Committee would convene upon the delegation's return to Manila, to examine the recommendations.
Guevarra, however, stopped short of committing to make reforms or prosecute police for excessive use of force after criticism from U.N. rights council members.
"To the best of our ability we tried to explain the underlying reasons for this campaign. That is to protect the human rights of the majority of our people who stand to potentially suffer the dark consequences of unmitigated abuse of illegal drugs and to set an environment conducive to further social economic development," Guevarra said.
"The international community sent out a very strong message to the Philippines government today ... Many of the recommendations did address the extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions vis-a-vis the government's campaign to stamp out illegal drugs," council spokesman Rolando Gomez said.
Nearly 50 states had voiced concerns, "so that obviously speaks volumes, and now of course it is up to the government to make good on the promises that they committed to here," Gomez told Reuters Television.
China praises Duterte for 'protecting human rights'
China, which during the debate congratulated Duterte's administration on its "remarkable achievements" in protecting human rights, suggested in its recommendation that it should "address the root cause of illegal drugs through development".
Duterte has been widely criticized for failing to curtail the killings and address activists' allegations of systematic, state-sponsored murders by police of drug users and dealers, a charge which the authorities reject.
The UNHRC examined the Philippines' record this week, wherein the government delegation said there had been no new wave of killings prompted by the campaign and denounced "alternative facts".
Incoming Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said since Duterte took office 10 months ago, there were 9,432 homicide cases from July 1 2016 to March 31, 2017, and 2,692 deaths resulting from presumed legitimate police operations in the drug war.
He also claimed that "in the past administrations, there was a low of 11,000 and a high of 16,000" cases of extra-judicial killings. - with reports from Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters