MANILA - The Philippines' "role as champion and voice" for vulnerable citizens and marginalized sectors is still as it ever was, the national government claimed, even as local and international experts say the country's human rights situation is worsening ever since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2016.
In its "Philippine Human Rights Situationer" report published last May, Manila's Permanent Mission to the United Nations said that the country’s "track record of human rights leadership in the UN and continuing of robust engagements" refute accusations that the Philippine government has not been cooperating with the UN, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and human rights mechanisms.
"The Philippines attaches the highest importance to open dialogue and constructive cooperation and continues to play a pivotal role in various multilateral fora," the mission said.
"It continues to hold in high regard the UN, the OHCHR, and human rights mechanisms for the invaluable expertise and power of constructive multilateralism in effecting positive transformations on the ground and in facilitating the strengthened implementation of human rights obligations among countries."
The OHCHR earlier said in a report that the Philippine government's stance on addressing national security threats and illegal drugs has led to serious human rights violations, including the killing of more than 8,663 people during the government's drug war, based on official figures. The murder of 248 human rights defenders, legal professionals, journalists and trade unionists in connection with their work were also linked to the government.
Dissenters have been vilified or arbitrarily arrested and detained, according to the report.
Because of the "failure of domestic mechanisms to ensure accountability," the UN report emphasized there is a need for "independent, impartial, credible investigations into all allegations of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law."
Malacañang has dismissed the claims.
The Philippine Mission meanwhile questioned UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard's "sincerity to pursue dialogue and cooperation" with Manila regarding the anti-illegal drugs campaign, alleging that her "inflammatory public statements" against the government constituted a missed opportunity for sincere engagement.
"The Philippine Mission has raised concerns on SR Callamard’s conduct with the appropriate UN human rights mechanisms."
Callamard, a staunch critic of the administration's drug war, said in 2018 that Duterte's statement, in which he said that his "only sin" was "extra-judicial killings", destroyed the rule of law in the Philippines.
"Extraordinary statement by a Head of State (and we have had many this week at the UN): my 'only' sin is #EJK. Translation: my only sin is imposing unthinkable sufferings on 1000s of vulnerable families, emboldening corrupt policing, destroying rule of law," Callamard said in a tweet.
She has sought an invitation to visit the Philippines to investigate the human rights situation in the country amid the Duterte administration's bloody war on illegal drugs.
The Philippine government in 2017 invited Callamard, but she declined due to conditions set by the government, including a public debate with Duterte, which she said would break UN protocol.
Duterte said he will "slap her" if she investigates him for the alleged extrajudicial killings under his administration's war on illegal drugs.
--With a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News