PH secures another term at the UN rights body
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)