The Palace on Saturday welcomed the United Nations Human Rights Council’s final adoption of the Third Philippine Universal Periodic Review, claiming that the Duterte administration respects human dignity amid the war on illegal drugs.
“The adoption of the Philippine UPR report in Geneva recognizes the human rights record of the Philippines and our country’s commitment to human rights under the leadership of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.
“This likewise reaffirms our respect for the dignity of the Filipino people and the protection of the Filipino family as we strive for a better life in a society free of illegal drugs and other crimes,” he added.
The Palace congratulated officials for successfully “explaining to the world” the Philippines’ policies, practices, commitments and obligations in the area of human rights.
“We congratulate the efforts of Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary (DFA) and the Philippine team in Geneva for their tireless efforts in explaining to the world our policies, practices, commitments and obligations in the area of human rights,” Abella said.
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights reiterated on Friday its call to the Philippine government for an end the impunity and adherence to the rule of law in its campaign against criminality and illegal drugs.
In its report, adopting the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of the Philippines, Algeria and Poland, the OHCHR also called on the Duterte administration to perform their mandates and respect the independence of the Commission on Human Rights, citing the decision of the House of Representatives to allocate P1,000 or a measly $20 to the CHR for their 2018 Budget.
“The Commission reiterated its call on the Government to end impunity and adhere to the rule of law in the campaign against criminality,” the OCHR said.
“It called upon the Government to enable oversight mechanisms to perform their mandates and respect the independence of the Commission on Human Rights. Despite the disabling and exclusionary environment, the Commission would continue to perform its constitutional duty in line with the Paris Principles,” the commission added.
OCHR urged the Philippines to ensure “accountability, transparency, and cooperation” in investigation of human rights violations, especially torture and enforced disappearances, and to provide adequate protection for human rights victims, whistle-blowers and witnesses, prosecute all perpetrators and honour its human rights obligations.
During the recent UN meeting, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations Office at Geneva Evan Garcia has outlined that the participation of the Philippines in the Universal Periodic Review reflected its sustained support for this process as an effective peer review and underlined its desire to strengthen the process as a responsive monitoring and review mechanism.
Of the 257 recommendations received, only a total of 103 were fully accepted or will be complied with by the Philippines.
These 257 recommendations mirrored the recommending States’ understanding of the current human rights situation in the Philippines, and recognized and respected the State as currently implementing or having implemented them.
These recommendations were classified into four items.
The Philippines noted a total of 154 recommendations anchored on the State’s national circumstances.
Among those, there were 99 that the State accepted in principle and could have partially supported because they were very much aligned with the aspirations of the Government to enhance the human rights governance framework in the Philippines.
However, the Philippines could only note these recommendations because it could not guarantee or commit at this time to their fruition given that the results of processes required to implement them were beyond the sole control of any of the branches of the Government.
“Also, in the set of 99 recommendations were those perceived to insinuate that the State had not taken any action whatsoever on the concerns raised. Full acceptance would denigrate the State’s current serious efforts that already addressed the issues raised,” the OCHR said.
The Philippines noted recommendations referring to the extrajudicial killings allegedly resulting from the State’s anti-illegal drug campaign of the administration as these were already addressed during the interactive dialogue with the Universal Periodic Review Working Group on May 8, 2017.
The OCHR acknowledged that the Philippines had sufficiently explained that deaths which occurred in the course of the implementation of the anti-illegal drug campaign “were not extrajudicial killings.”
“Similarly, the State clarified that concerns on the re-imposition of the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility were subject to deliberations in the Philippines Congress, which included comprehensive consultations,” it said.
In effect, of the 154 recommendations that the Government had noted, only 55 could not be fully supported by the Government.
Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines said it came before the Human Rights Council at a time when human rights promotion and protection in the Philippines was at a crossroads.
It also said that a culture of impunity continued and human rights were challenged on the ground by a series of factors including; the relentless war against illegal drugs that had resulted in thousands of deaths, largely victimizing the poor; the extension of the martial law in Mindanao and an active armed conflict that had caused internal displacements; the pursuit of a legislative agenda that reintroduced the death penalty and lowered the minimum age of criminal responsibility; the discovery of a secret detention cell and its denial by State agents; public threats, intimidation and false information against human rights defenders, journalists and oversight actors; and the vote in the House of Representatives to reduce the Commission’s budget to $20, which was recently restored but with a possible 15 percent reduction in the total budget proposal.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic commended the acceptance by the Philippines of a large number of recommendations, including those it had proposed.
“It appreciated the adoption or implementation of measures aimed at combatting poverty and promoting the right to education and the rights of vulnerable groups,” the OHCHR said.
Libya appreciated that many of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations had been adopted, which showed that the Philippines wished to promote and protect human rights.
It however hoped the Philippines would continue these efforts, especially in the field of unemployment, and recommended the adoption of the report.
Madagascar on the other hand welcomed the delegation and commended the efforts made to promote and protect human rights in the Philippines despite recent disasters.
It noted with satisfaction the ratification of the Convention of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations against Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children.
Malaysia was appreciative of the Philippines’ acceptance of many of their recommendations, and its efforts to improve access to quality education for vulnerable and marginalised groups, and in particular girls, as well as the focus on poverty.
Malaysia recommended that the Human Rights Council adopt the report.
Maldives thanked the Philippines for its acceptance of the majority of the recommendations. It continued to encourage the Philippines to comply with international standards in combatting the use of drugs.
Myanmar thanked the delegation of the Philippines and commended its positive and constructive cooperation with the United Nations mechanisms.
“It was pleased that a vast majority of the recommendations had been accepted, including two made by Myanmar, and wished the Philippines every success in implementing the recommendations,” the OHCHR stated.
China expressed appreciation for Philippines’ acceptance of its recommendations.
China noted that Philippine Government worked hard to promote social equality and improve people’s living standards.
“The international community should support the Philippines’ efforts in fighting drug-related crimes,” China said.
Russian Federation congratulated the Philippines on its third Universal Periodic Review.
“The efforts of the authorities were appreciated with a view to upholding fundamental rights and freedoms,” Russia, for its part, said.
Sierra Leone commended the Philippines for improving the lives of children.
The country noted that the Philippine Government had also put in place a task force to that end. It was noted that many of the recommendations enjoyed the support of the Government of the Philippines.
Sierra Leone however said that efforts aimed at eradicating the abuse of illegal drugs should not be detrimental to fundamental human rights and freedoms.
Singapore commended the Philippines for its positive response, and endorsed the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review.
The continuing efforts of the Government of the Philippines were also praised by Singapore.
Sudan welcomed the delegation of the Philippines and thanked it for the information, paying attention to the adherence of the Philippines to certain important regional conventions.
Sudan’s recommendation for the Philippines to accede to the Convention on Enforced Disappearances had not been accepted.
Sudan recommended the adoption of the report of the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines.
Thailand welcomed the participation of the Philippines in the third Universal Periodic Review cycle.
“No one should be left behind, and Thailand stood ready to assist the Philippines as a fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations member,” Thailand stated.
United Kingdom however regretted that its recommendations were not accepted by the Philippines.
The United Kingdom remained concerned about the high death toll associated with the campaign against illegal drugs and statements questioning the universality of human rights. Continuing threats against human rights defenders were also of grave concern.
United States welcomed the acceptance of its recommendations by the Philippines.
The United States however remained concerned about ongoing reports of extrajudicial killings and called on the Philippines to ensure that investigations were conducted with respect for human rights and the rule of law.