'Philippines risks ICC intervention if it snubs human rights recommendations'

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 02 2017 06:25 PM | Updated as of Oct 02 2017 06:45 PM

MANILA - The Philippines risks international erosion of trust in its institutions and the intervention of the International Criminal Court if it doesn't act on the alleged human rights violations raised by other nations, an analyst said Monday.

Unless the Philippines shows that it respects human rights and investigates seriously and impartially these deaths, the international court may step in and begin preliminary investigation, said International Center for Transitional Justice's Reparative Justice Program Director Ruben Carranza.

The court may then "determine whether individuals in the Philippines, including the President of the Philippines, can be held criminally accountable," he said.

"That means it’s not only the reputation of the country on the line, but the fact that its government officials will possibly face arrest, possibly not be able to travel, possibly tried and if convicted, imprisoned," he told ANC's Headstart.

On top of this, he said, it would be difficult for the international community to believe Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano when he "lies about the human rights situation in his country." 

"If the Philippines were to need the support of other countries, for example involving their overseas foreign workers or involving Philippine foreign exports, the credibility of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the credibility of the entire Philippine government is on the line," he said.

"You have institutional erosion from the point of view of the country’s trading partners, from the point of view of the country’s partners in terms of overseas workers," he added.

The Philippines received 257 proposals to improve human rights in the country that were submitted by different nations during a United Nations dialogue in Geneva. Manila accepted only 103, noted 99 and rejected 55 others.

Last week, 39 UN member-states expressed serious concern over alleged extra-judicial killings occurring amid the President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war, prompting Malacañang to say it will never accept foreign intervention in its internal affairs.

Carranza said the continued snubbing of human rights concerns aired by different nations may also result to the "perspective that the Philippines is becoming a rogue state."

"The Philippines is fast being seen as a country that simply does not care about human rights, run by a single person who simply does not respect the rule of law, constitutional boundaries," he said.

He added the country may be treated the same way as other countries treat Sudan, Syria, or North Korea.

While he acknowledged that some nations believe that the approval of Western countries are unnecessary, he said: "we cannot compartmentalize human rights" in a way that only the endorsement of developing nations are acknowledged.

Carranza also criticized the Duterte administration for calling the UN's review of the country's human rights records a victory, saying the Philippines should know of the processes undertaken there.

He said the UN Human Rights Council's adoption of the working group's draft does not mean it is approving the human rights record of the country being reviewed.

"The Human Rights Council never approved the human rights record, the human rights violations, the extrajudicial killings, and the denial of due process accompanying those killings that the Philippines has been committing," said Carranza.

"The fact of adoption simply means the report is adopted; it doesn’t mean it’s being approved, being endorsed. There is no big victory, to use the words of Secretary Cayetano, in what the Human Rights Council did...It’s a lie and it’s not a good faith lie, not a lie that is defensible as a mistake," he said.

In a speech before the UN General Assembly, Cayetano called on the UN to give the Philippines "the benefit of the doubt" amid its campaign against illegal drugs.

"Our people expect that the sovereignty be respected. And that its democratically elected government’s assessment of threats and how to go about addressing them shall be accorded preeminence among nations," he said.

"Or at the very least, is it too much to ask for the benefit of the doubt?"

The top diplomat also reiterated that the Duterte administration's war on illegal drugs does not violate human rights and does not tolerate abuse of cops.

"The Philippines’ comprehensive campaign against illegal drugs is a necessary instrument to preserve and protect human rights of all Filipinos. It is never an instrument to violate any individuals' or groups' human rights," he said.

"While drug addiction calls for rehab, drug trafficking surely calls for stern measures though always consistent with the rule of law."

According to Cayetano, 59 percent of barangays in the country participate in the illegal drug trade, and up to 7 million Filipinos use illegal drugs, as of August 2017.

Cayetano also slammed media reports that "deny the real scale" of the illegal drug problem in the country.

"Headlines today about human-rights abuses but what about the headlines yesterday...wherein 2-year-olds were being raped, wherein mothers were selling their children to feed their drug addiction?" he said.

"We should never tolerate human rights abuses. But neither should we tolerate misinformation, fake news on and politicization of human rights."

Latest police estimates placed the number of drug suspects slain in presumed legitimate anti-drug operations at 3,800 since July 1, 2016 or an average of 9 killed daily under the Duterte administration.