The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) overwhelmingly rejected a Philippine senator’s defence of his government’s drug war.
Of 46 countries represented only China gave its backing to the country’s human rights record, with all the others calling for action to be taken on extrajudicial killings.
As we reported yesterday, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano presented a slide show at the country’s Universal Periodic Review, a regular four-yearly examination of the country’s human rights record.
In his presentation he dismissed claims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) and repeated claims that critics were smearing the government with “fake news”.
He said: “One: There is no state-sponsored killing in the Philippines. Two: There is no sudden wave of killings.
“We are asking you — through the mechanisms of this honourable council — to interview our people, to go to our communities, to visit the Philippines and to see for yourself: The truth, the real numbers.
“At all times, the Duterte government seeks to uphold the rule of law.”
However, his words had little impact on the delegates, who overwhelmingly voiced their concerns about the killings.
Among the critics were the United States, Germany, France, Canada, Japan, Italy, Australia, Austria, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Ghana, Guatemala, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia and Timor-Leste.
In a message sent from her cell at Camp Crame, jailed senator Leila de Lima said the response was a “double slap” for the government.
She wrote: “It was a double-slap on the PH delegation to the UNHRC when in a vote of 45-1, the UNHRC delegates urged the Philippines to take the appropriate actions to stop the EJKs in the country.
“Obviously, the UNHRC completely ignored the fictional boasts of Cayetano on the human rights accomplishments of the Duterte regime.
“While most of the report embodied accomplishments of the PNoy [former president Benigno Aquino III] administration, the UNHRC delegates were not about to be fooled, as they were able to distinguish between PNoy’s accomplishments and the opposite reality of summary executions that now pervades in the country.”
She said the renewed call of delegates to allow UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard to investigate the killings was the “second part of the double-slap.”
“After criticising and cursing Callamard for appearing in the CHR (Commission on Human Rights) anniversary and attending the FLAG forum on the drug war, the government is now asked to invite back Callamard.”
Ms Callamard was criticised by the Malacañang this week for her supposed unannounced visit to the country. It has since emerged that she had in fact informed the palace of her plans to attend the forum.
Senator De Lima’s message continued: “It’s time for Malacañang to swallow its pride and stop all the foolishness.
“Spouting fictional numbers and condescendingly lecturing brilliant human rights defenders on the definition of EJK doesn’t work as the images of bloodied corpses on city pavements is already seared in the mind of the international community.
“It will take Cayetano and Malacañang some time to recover from this double slap. Hopefully, the lingering pain and ringing in the ears will teach them never ever to play around with the UN human rights bUNHRCodies again, and its officials like Callamard.”
Concluding her broadside, she linked China’s support to the South China Sea issue, saying the president’s “sell-out” of the Spratlys to his “Chinese masters” had paid off, adding that China was “the lone state delegate that chose to side with its lackey, Duterte.”
Speaking at the review, China’s representative Ma Zhaoxu said: “China highly appreciates the relentless efforts made by the Philippines for the promotion and protection of human rights, and the remarkable achievements it has made.
“China warmly welcomes the delegation of the Philippines to the UPR. We appreciate Senator Cayetano for his very convincing briefing.”
Following the review, the NGO Human Rights Watch called for a probe into the drug war.
“The Philippines is facing a growing chorus of international concern at the human cost of President Duterte’s murderous war on drugs,” said John Fisher, Geneva director of the independent rights watchdog.
“The government’s denial and deflection of criticism shows it has no intention of complying with its international obligations.
“The Human Rights Council should establish an international inquiry and, if killings without accountability continue, reconsider the Philippines’ council membership.”