FOREIGN Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano shrugged off a hearing held by a bipartisan caucus of the US House of Representatives into the human rights consequences of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, saying the body has no power over the Philippines.
“They are not the United Nations. They are not our boss,” Cayetano said of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. “So they have no right to summon us.”
If the commission asks the Philippines to attend the hearings, the Philippine Embassy in Washington will be told to submit the documents the government had prepared for the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council.
The Philippines would not send a representative to any hearings, he added.
The commission earlier said it has invited witnesses who will analyze the implementation of Duterte’s drug war and its consequences on human rights in the Philippines.
“Although extrajudicial killings have been a major human rights concern for some time, in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016, the Department of State recognized that such killings increased sharply over the last year,” the commission said.
The witnesses include iDEFEND spokesperson Ellecer Carlos; Amnesty International senior crisis advisor Matthew Wells; and Human Rights Watch Asia Division deputy director Phelim Kine.
The commission said these panelist will also provide policy recommendations for ensuring accountability for human rights violations and for addressing the problems of drug abuse and trafficking in ways consistent with promoting public health and strengthening rule of law.
The commission quoted Duterte as ordering the police to kill drug pushers, and to dump them into the Manila Bay to fatten the fish there.
In the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016, the US State Department raised concern over the increasing number of deaths over the last year.
In the Palace, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the human rights commission should be fair in its assessment.
“The universality of human rights presupposes due process be observed by all,” Abella said in a news briefing.
“Any proceedings that allege wrongdoing should provide opportunity for all sides to be considered. Insinuations and hasty judgments have no place in due process,” he added.
Abella said that the “numbers should be verified [and] information should be cross-checked so that the ensuing conclusions have a solid basis in fact.”
Abella also underscored the need to fight illegal drugs, saying drug trafficking fuels terrorism, one of the major problems of the Duterte administration.
“The Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs is a noble effort to protect the safety of the Filipino people and the future of the nation,” Abella added.
The latest Philippine National Police data show that a total of 3,200 drug suspects were killed in anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to June 20, 2017, or nine killed daily in presumed legitimate anti-drug operations in the first year of the Duterte administration.
The PNP has also determined that out of the 12,833 homicide cases from July 1, 2016 to June 16, 2017, 2,098 deaths were drug-related and 2,535 non-drug related. A total of 8,200 homicide cases were under investigation “with motives to be determined,” the PNP said.
In the same news briefing, Abella likewise reacted sharply against a Canada-based tabloid which characterized the Philippine capital as a “slaughterhouse.”
A daily tabloid newspaper, the Toronto Sun, said Manila’s streets looked more “like a slaughterhouse than one of the world’s great cities.”
“Gangsters kill gangsters over women, drug turf and whatever suits their fancy. Extrajudicial assassinations by President Rodrigo Duterte’s death squads add to the sinister mix,” the story written by Brad Hunter said, as he enumerated the world’s most dangerous cities.
“The vigilantes’ tally? An estimated 5,600 dead in just a year,” he added.
Abella told the Toronto Sun to stop listening to an echo chamber and experience the country’s “sun, sand, and beaches.”
“I think they should come here and experience it’s more fun in the Philippines, right? They should experience the sun, the sand, the beaches… You look around. I mean, from experience, what can you say? Is this a slaughterhouse? Of course not,” he said.
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