A Filipino senator has issued a spirited defence of the Duterte administration’s human rights record before a UN panel in Geneva, Switzerland.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano appeared before the UN’s Human Rights Council with a slide show, 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.”
Cayetano was speaking on Monday (May 8) at a scheduled ‘Universal Periodic Review’ of the country’s human rights record at the council.
The Philippines currently has a seat on the 47-member council which also includes the UK, USA, Iraq, China, Venezuela, Cuba, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
New York-based Human Rights Watch claims it has left more than 7,000 suspects dead since Duterte took office in June. The government disputes the claim, saying a lesser number of suspects were shot while fighting back, and the other deaths are unrelated to the crackdown.
The council’s two-week review session will examine 14 countries including the UK, Indonesia, India, Bahrain and South Africa.
Following the senator’s opening remarks, delegates were given one minute each to comment on the country’s record and make recommendations.
The Chinese delegate was positive about the presentation, calling it “very convincing”.
Others raised concerns about threats against journalists, the possibility of a reinstated death penalty and extrajudicial killings (EJKs).
Australia’s delegate said she was “deeply concerned” about killings linked to the “so-called war on drugs”, noting “credible allegations of involvement by elements of the Philippine national police”.
Germany’s envoy urged the Philippines to take “all necessary measures” to stop extrajudicial killings, while the Vatican said reports of disappearances were “deeply troubling”.
However, the senator argued that critics had twisted the definition of extrajudicial killings from that used under previous governments, saying: “Suddenly, ‘extrajudicial killing’ refers to any death outside those causes by natural causes, accidents, or those ordered by courts — and we do not have the death penalty, so none are ordered by courts.
“Make no mistake… one death or any death or killing is one too much. However, there is a deliberate attempt to include all homicides as EJKs or killings related to the campaign against criminality and illegal drugs — and that these are state-sponsored, which is absolutely not true.”