UN body a 'toothless tiger' in drug war probe: Harry Roque

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 15 2019 12:17 PM | Updated as of Jul 16 2019 05:59 PM

Dead bodies turn up on the streets in different parts of Metro Manila. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- A United Nations body that sought information on the Philippines' anti-narcotics drive is a "toothless tiger" that cannot pass sentence on anyone or impose sanctions, President Rodrigo Duterte's former spokesperson said Monday. 

The UN Human Rights Council last week adopted Iceland's resolution calling for a comprehensive report of the crackdown, which according to government data has killed some 6,600 drug suspects since 2016. 

"The UNHRC, much like its predecessor, the UN Human Rights Commission, is a toothless tiger. At most, it amounts to a sort of shaming machinery intended to prod UN member countries into complying with their treaty obligations to protect and promote human rights," Harry Roque said on Facebook. 

"It cannot pass sentence on anyone, cannot impose sanctions, and, as a political organ, has subjected the enforcement of human rights norms to political horse trading," he added. 

The UNHRC also lacks moral authority to call for the enforcement of fundamental human rights, claimed Roque. 

"How else could beheadings, amputations, and discrimination against members of the LGBT community continue in some states that have been members of the HRC?" he said. 

Roque also noted that the body's mandate is limited to periodic review by rapporteurs, who "can only perform their functions if they are invited by UN member countries."  

He also argued that the UNHRC's resolution has "certainly not" shamed the Philippines because out of 47 members, only 18 states favored it while 14 rejected it and 15 abstained. 

"Look at the list of the 18 states and you will see that they are mostly countries that have always been critical of the Duterte administration," said Roque. 

The resolution, he added, only calls for a complete report on the killings and "has not found our country guilty of breaching any of its treaty obligations or assigning blame." 

"I tell the President’s most single-minded critics again: you are making much ado about nothing," he said. 

Manila says police have killed 6,600 drug suspects who resisted arrest, rejecting the estimates of rights groups who say the crackdown -- that remains popular with many Filipinos -- has left more than 20,000 dead.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin has rejected the UNHRC resolution and warned "there will be consequences" for those countries who backed it.

Rights groups, meanwhile, hailed the UN vote as providing hope to the families of the dead suspects as well as for those who have challenged Duterte's policies.

Duterte is facing cases before the International Criminal Court for alleged mass murders and human rights violations under the drug war, his signature initiative launched in 2016. He has withdrawn the country from the treaty that created the ICC. 

With a report from Agence France-Presse