PH se­cures an­other term at the UN rights body

Manila Bulletin - - Front Page - By ARGYLL B. GEDUCOS and PNA

The Philip­pines has se­cured an­other three-year term in the 47mem­ber United Na­tions (UN) Hu­man Rights Coun­cil dur­ing elec­tions in New York, the Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs (DFA) said Satur­day.

Am­bas­sador Teodoro Loc­sin Jr., Philip­pine Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the UN in New York, said the Philip­pines

gar­nered 165 votes of 192 votes cast by mem­ber-states.

The Philip­pines will sit in the Coun­cil anew from 2019 to 2021.

Out­go­ing For­eign Af­fairs Sec­re­tary Alan Peter Cayetano wel­comed Manila's win, thank­ing UN mem­ber-states that "clearly un­der­stood where we are com­ing from."

“Our suc­cess­ful bid to keep our seat in the Coun­cil is proof that many in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity re­main con­vinced the Philip­pines re­spects and pro­tects hu­man rights and have seen through the ef­forts of some to politi­cize and weaponize the is­sue,” Cayetano said in a state­ment.

Aside from the Philip­pines, the other mem­ber-states elected by the gen­eral as­sem­bly were Ar­gentina, Aus­tria, Ba­hamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burk­ina Faso, Cameroon, Czech Repub­lic, Den­mark, Eritrea, Fiji, In­dia, Italy, So­ma­lia, Togo, and Uruguay.

The Philip­pines is serv­ing a three­year term in the coun­cil af­ter its election in 2015 and is serv­ing as vice pres­i­dent rep­re­sent­ing the Asia-Pa­cific group.

The Philip­pines first served in the Coun­cil from 2007 to 2009 and then from 2012 to 2014.

Cayetano said the Philip­pines was able to se­cure the vic­tory de­spite a well-or­ches­trated ef­fort by non­govern­ment groups to paint a wrong pic­ture of the hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try.

On Fri­day night, Cayetano slammed the Hu­man Rights Watch (HRW) and other non-govern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions for launch­ing an op­po­si­tion cam­paign against Manila’s re-election bid.

Speak­ing to re­porters at the DFA Of­fice of Con­sular Af­fairs, Cayetano de­cried what he said was the moral bank­ruptcy of some hu­man rights groups that have been loudly crit­i­ciz­ing the hu­man rights record of the Philip­pines to so­licit more funds from donors.

“Why moral bank­ruptcy? Kat­u­lad ngayon, bud­get sea­son sa Europe. Kaya sila main­gay, kasi gusto lang ku­muhang ad­di­tional bud­get (Like now, it's bud­get sea­son in Europe. That's why they're noisy, be­cause they want to get ad­di­tional bud­get),” he said.

“If you want to talk hu­man rights, we’re here. Upuan natin (Let's sit down). But (if) you just want to crit­i­cize us from afar and don’t want to give so­lu­tions, and just keep say­ing, ‘Kayo tama, kami mali’ (You’re right, we’re wrong), it’s help­ing no one ex­cept you and your fi­nances,” Cayetano said.

The of­fi­cial stressed that the Philip­pines, as a ma­jor la­bor-send­ing coun­try, de­serves a seat at the hu­man rights body since one of the big­gest hu­man rights chal­lenges at present is on the is­sue of mi­gra­tion.

"Have you heard the Hu­man Rights Watch op­pose (any) western or Eu­ro­pean coun­try? These western coun­tries are the ones against the Global Com­pact on Mi­gra­tion. Not all but some," he said. "Us, with 10 mil­lion Filipinos abroad, we know the strug­gle of a mi­grant."

No need for Rome Statute

Mean­while, Chief Pres­i­den­tial Le­gal Coun­sel Sal­vador Panelo believes that with­draw­ing from the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) will not weaken the Philip­pine claim over dis­puted ter­ri­to­ries in the West Philip­pine Sea (WPS).

Panelo made the re­mark af­ter Supreme Court act­ing Chief Jus­tice An­to­nio Car­pio claimed that the coun­try’s with­drawal from the ICC would weaken the Philip­pines' stance if ever China in­vades Scar­bor­ough Shoal and puts up mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ments there.

In his first press brief­ing as tem­po­rary pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son, Panelo said that there is noth­ing that con­nects the two is­sues.

"Frankly, I have not seen the re­la­tion be­tween with­draw­ing from the ICC and that par­tic­u­lar Chi­nese is­sue. Wala akong mak­i­tang koneksyon eh (I don't see any con­nec­tion)," he said.

Ac­cord­ing to Panelo, the ICC has no ju­ris­dic­tion over the Philip­pines to be­gin with, even with the new pro­vi­sion in the Rome Statute re­gard­ing ag­gres­sion by an­other coun­try.

"Wala iyon (That's noth­ing)," he said.

Rights over the dis­puted West Philip­pine Sea was granted to the Philip­pines two years ago by the In­ter­na­tional Ar­bi­tral Tri­bunal re­ject­ing China’s nine-dash-line. But Pres­i­dent Duterte de­cided to set the rul­ing aside and build friendly re­la­tions with China. He promised, how­ever, to raise the is­sue with the Asian gi­ant within his term.

Panelo re­it­er­ated that the Philip­pines does not need the Rome Statute be­cause the lo­cal courts are func­tion­ing well.

The Rome Statute was cre­ated to have a ve­hi­cle – the ICC – by which we can pros­e­cute coun­tries per­ceived to be tyrants or vi­o­la­tors of heinous crimes.

"If that is the ra­tio­nale, then we do not need the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court. Why? First, as the Rome Statute says, it will only come in if the state is un­will­ing or un­able. But we are not only will­ing, we’re able," Panelo said.

"What’s the proof? We jailed the for­mer Pres­i­dent Erap [Estrada], We also de­tained the for­mer Pres­i­dent Glo­ria Ar­royo, so our courts were func­tion­ing as they are func­tion­ing now. It’s a ro­bust ju­di­cial sys­tem," he added.

UP­SIDE DOWN—A tri­cy­cle top­pled up­side down af­ter col­lid­ing with a taxi­cab along United Na­tions Av­enue early Satur­day morn­ing. The ac­ci­dent re­port­edly in­jured one fe­male on­board the tri­cy­cle. (Jun Ryan Arañas)

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