Minority senators welcome UN rights council resolution on PH drug war

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 12 2019 12:50 PM | Updated as of Jul 12 2019 05:37 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - Minority senators on Friday welcomed the move of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to adopt a resolution seeking a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the Philippines, including alleged extrajudicial killings in the government's drug war.

During its 41st regular session in Geneva, Switzerland, the rights body voted to adopt the resolution filed by Iceland. Eighteen countries, mostly from Europe, voted in favor of the resolution, 14, including China, voted against it, and 15 abstained. 

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the country must project “statesmanship and maturity” in dealing with the resolution.

“Let's keep an open mind, not shut doors to international bodies objectively looking into the issue," Drilon said in a statement.

"We will rise to the challenge and the challenge is to improve the human rights situation in the country.”

Drilon said if the government has nothing to worry about with regard to its war on drugs, it should cooperate with the UNHRC.

"The government must cooperate. We cannot simply ignore it, because we are part of it and the government is legally and constitutionally mandated to honor our treaty obligations," Drilon said.

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima, one of the fiercest critics of President Rodrigo Duterte and his drug war, said in a statement that with the adoption of the UNHRC resolution, “the windows of international scrutiny are beginning to open up towards justice for the Filipino people.”

De Lima said the UNHRC resolution could help in “decisively shattering the ‘consensus of silence and conspiracy of fear’ among the Filipinos domestically, and in shifting the political narrative abroad.”

She said while the actions that would be taken by UN officials in light of the resolution are “relatively modest,” it would send a signal to the Duterte administration “that truth and justice will prevail, and that the perpetrators and masterminds behind the atrocities will be held accountable.”

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, said the adoption "was a “courageous act of solidarity and humanity of those who supported the resolution.”

Hontiveros slammed the government’s rejection of the resolution and for “closing ranks with China,” with which the Philippines has a long-running maritime dispute in the South China Sea.

“Being a part of a global community joined by the shared respect for democracy, human rights and dignity, our government should have respected and supported this resolution,” she said in a statement.

“Even as we respect each other's sovereignty and right to self-determination, as a member of the international community, our country has an obligation to subject its public policies and even our leaders to international scrutiny, in the same way that we may hold accountable the actions of other nation-states.”

She also noted that countries which rejected the resolution are those “with bad human rights records, ruled by dictatorial regimes and monarchs.”

“This only demonstrates the global and lingering phenomena of strongman rule and illiberalism, meriting closer cooperation and stronger solidarity among democratic forces in the international community,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, president of the opposition Liberal Party, urged the government to heed the call of the resolution by facilitating country visits of UN investigators.

He hopes the UNHRC resolution would be able to convince the government “to rethink its drug war policy and find real, long-lasting solutions to the drug menace that places a premium on respect for human life.”

“Daily killings while failing to go after drug syndicates is not the solution to eradicating the menace of illegal drugs,” he added.

“Long after the Duterte administration is gone, we will all be judged as to where we stood as mass murder of our hapless poor was taking place in our country.”

Malacañang on Thursday said the resolution contained "false information and unverified facts and figures,” as it stressed the move of the UNHRC would not weaken the Duterte presidency.

Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said the resolution was "designed to embarrass" the Philippines on the global stage.

"The resolution demonstrates how the Western powers are scornful of our sovereign exercise of protecting our people from the scourge of prohibited drugs that threaten to destroy the fabric of our society," he said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., in a speech read on his behalf during the the UNHRC's 41st regular session, also questioned the validity of the resolution and warned of consequences.

"This resolution was not universally adopted. Therefore, its validity is highly questionable. It does not represent the will of the Council, much less that of the developing countries who are always the target of such resolutions," he said.

"Western countries pushed for this resolution in the confidence that the world has forgotten what they did and what should have been done to them had there been a Human Rights Council. It was pushed with the arrogance that developing countries must not stand up to them even if we can and as we hereby do. There will be consequences," Locsin added.

Rights groups have claimed that tens of thousands have died in the Philippine government's drug war. Police have, meanwhile said, the figure is just at over 6,000 from the start of the Duterte administration in July 2016 until the end of May.

Government has repeatedly denied involvement in summary killings, saying drug suspects slain in police operations had resisted arrest.