Group says PH should be kept off UN council; Palace defends rights record

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 12 2018 07:47 PM

A policeman documents a self-confessed drug user who voluntarily surrendered to police under Oplan Tokhang in Pasig City, September 15, 2016. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters/File

MANILA - Malacañang on Friday defended the Duterte administration’s human rights track record after the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said member countries of the United Nations should oppose the Philippines' candidacy for the Human Rights Council (HRC).

The New York-based HRW said the Philippines, along with Eritrea, should not be given seats at the council. 

“UN member countries should show their outrage at the Philippines and Eritrea by leaving two spots on the ballot sheet blank and keeping them off the council,” said Louis Charbonneau, HRW's UN director.

“Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s abusive ‘war on drugs’ has been a killing frenzy that has left thousands dead. In Eritrea, the authorities persecute and jail government critics and force citizens into indefinite national service.”

The UN General Assembly is set to vote on Oct. 12 to fill one-third of the seats on the 47-member council for the 2019 to 2021 term. Countries need a minimum of 97 votes – a simple majority – to get elected to the council.

HRW said the Philippines is undergoing a “human rights crisis that may amount to crimes against humanity.”

“Since Duterte took office in July 2016, more than 12,000 suspected drug dealers and users have been gunned down in what they call ‘legitimate police operations.’ Human Rights Watch and other rights groups, as well as the media, have found a pattern of police misconduct, notably the planting of drugs and handguns on suspects’ bodies,” HRW said.

“The killings continue daily and have spread to cities and provinces outside the capital, Manila. The Duterte administration has sought to quell all dissent and criticism of the ‘drug war’ by jailing, threatening, and harassing critics. No police officer has been convicted for any of these deaths.”

HRW said as a condition of membership, Human Rights Council members are expected to cooperate with the council and its rights experts.

“Instead, the Philippines has carried out vicious campaigns against UN officials, including against the special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings and the high commissioner for human rights,” the group said.

Reacting to HRW’s call, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said: “That’s for the Human Rights Council to decide whether we will be accepted or not.”

“They have always raised human rights violations against this administration, but as repeatedly said by the president, he will not allow human rights violations in this country,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.

“I always remember what he said during the first SONA (State of the Nation Address): I declared war against illegal drugs, but those who abuse their authority will have hell to pay.”

The administration has repeatedly denied being behind summary executions linked to the drug war. 

Officials have said drug suspects slain in police anti-drug operations had resisted arrest.