Phl wins seat in UN hu­man rights body

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - By JANVIC MA­TEO

De­spite op­po­si­tion from an in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tion, the Philip­pines has suc­ceeded in its re-elec­tion bid for a seat in the 47-mem­ber United Na­tions Hu­man Rights Coun­cil (UNHRC).

The Philip­pines, which will end its fourth term at the coun­cil this year, will serve a fresh term of three years un­til 2021.

It is one of 18 coun­tries, in­clud­ing five from the Asi­aPa­cific re­gion, that vied with­out op­po­si­tion for the seats sched­uled to be left va­cant this year.

Mala­cañang lauded the in­clu­sion, tak­ing it as recog­ni­tion of the coun­try’s stance in the pro­tec­tion of hu­man rights and zero tol­er­ance against abuses.

Sal­vador Panelo, pres­i­den­tial spokesman and chief le­gal coun­sel, said it only shows that the UN sup­ports the Philip­pines’ “gi­gan­tic” fight against il­le­gal drugs, which he de­scribed as a “dragon of de­struc­tion.”

“The com­mu­nity of na­tions has viewed the drug me­nace as a global prob­lem re­quir­ing its ut­most at­ten­tion in force­fully deal­ing with it and forg­ing a united front against the pur­vey­ors of its pro­lif­er­a­tion across the fron­tiers of the world. The Philip­pines is at the fore­front of this gi­gan­tic fight and is show­ing the way how to slay the dragon of de­struc­tion,” he said.

He added, “The Pres­i­dent’s cam­paign against il­le­gal drugs, cor­rup­tion and crim­i­nal­ity has, in ef­fect, been ac­knowl­edged by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as es­sen­tial to the pro­tec­tion of the right to life, lib­erty and prop­erty of ev­ery peace-lov­ing and law-abid­ing cit­i­zen of our State.”

Philip­pine Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the UN in New York and in­com­ing For­eign Af­fairs Sec­re­tary Teodoro Loc­sin Jr. led the Philip­pine del­e­ga­tion at the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly, where mem­bers voted for the new coun­cil mem­bers on Fri­day evening (Manila time).

The Philip­pines re­ceived 165 out of the 192 votes cast, the sec­ond low­est over­all and the low­est –along with Bahrain – in the Asi­aPa­cific re­gion. Other coun­tries in the re­gion were In­dia (188), Fiji (187) and Bangladesh (178).

Eritrea, in the African group, re­ceived the low­est num­ber of votes with 160.

Also elected were Burk­ina Faso (183), Togo (181), Cameroon (176) and Somalia (170) from Africa; Ba­hamas (180), Uruguay (177) and Ar­gentina (172) from the Amer­i­cas; Italy (180), Aus­tria (171) and Den­mark (167) from Western Europe; and Bul­garia (180) and Czech Repub­lic (178) from East­ern Europe.

With no com­pe­ti­tion for the seats, can­di­date coun­tries only needed 97 or the sim­ple ma­jor­ity of the 193-mem­ber UN to se­cure a new term at the HRC.

Out­go­ing For­eign Af­fairs Sec­re­tary Alan Peter Cayetano wel­comed the re-elec­tion of the Philip­pines, claim­ing it as a vin­di­ca­tion of the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion’s war against il­le­gal drugs.

“Our elec­tion to an­other term in the Hu­man Rights Coun­cil would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the sup­port of other UN mem­ber­states who clearly un­der­stood where we are com­ing from,” he said in a state­ment.

“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 added.

He com­mended Loc­sin and Per­ma­nent Philip­pine Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the UN in Geneva Evan Gar­cia for their ef­forts.

The Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights also wel­comed the coun­try’s re­elec­tion to the HRC, say­ing it puts pres­sure on the Philip­pine govern­ment to ad­dress nu­mer­ous al­le­ga­tions of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions which, ac­cord­ing to CHR spokesper­son Jac­que­line de Guia, in­clude cases of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings.

“The Philip­pines’ cred­i­bil­ity to be part of this body rests on its abil­ity to ef­fect ac­tions that will con­cretely ad­dress these al­le­ga­tions, in line with its man­date to pro­mote, pro­tect and ful­fill the hu­man rights of all and not just of a se­lect few,” she said.

De Guia stressed that the “CHR will con­tinue to per­form its man­date of help­ing UN mon­i­tor the hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion on the ground as the coun­try’s in­de­pen­dent na­tional hu­man rights in­sti­tu­tion.”

A day be­fore the vote, New York-based hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tion Hu­man Rights Watch (HRW) called on UN mem­ber­states not to vote for the Philip­pines due to al­leged hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions.

“UN mem­ber-coun­tries should show their out­rage at the Philip­pines and Eritrea by leav­ing two spots on the bal­lot sheet blank and keep­ing them off the coun­cil,” HRW UN di­rec­tor Louis Char­bon­neau said, aside from cit­ing the vi­o­la­tions in Bahrain and Cameroon.

The group claimed that more than 12,000 sus­pected drug deal­ers and users have been gunned down since Duterte took of­fice in July 2016.

Cayetano on Fri­day slammed HRW and other hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing Bagong Alyansang Mak­abayan, for cam­paign­ing against the Philip­pines, say­ing these groups’ op­po­si­tion is only be­cause the coun­try has been in­stru­men­tal in ex­pos­ing their moral bank­ruptcy.

He added that these groups are noisy be­cause they are seek­ing more fund­ing.

“The re­al­ity is, they are for the le­gal­iza­tion of il­le­gal drugs and that is a big busi­ness. Whether it’s le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana, le­gal­iz­ing co­caine, heroin, etc., that’s a multi­bil­lion-dollar busi­ness. This is the hypocrisy that the Philip­pines has been op­pos­ing at the HRW,” said Cayetano.

He also slammed Ice­land, which has been at the fore­front of a group of coun­tries that have re­peat­edly crit­i­cized al­leged hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in the Philip­pines, and turned the ta­bles on the Euro­pean coun­try by ac­cus­ing it of fac­ing prob­lems on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Mag­dalo party-list Rep. Gary Ale­jano crit­i­cized the Philip­pines’ win­ning a UNHRC seat, say­ing it was odd when viewed from the thou­sands that were killed in the fight against il­le­gal drugs.

Phl com­mit­ments

In its note ver­bale to the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly, the Philip­pines high­lighted its strong tra­di­tion of hu­man rights ad­vo­cacy in push­ing for its can­di­dacy. It also noted achieve­ments in the field of hu­man rights, in­clud­ing pass­ing leg­is­la­tions and im­ple­ment­ing poli­cies that pro­tect women and chil­dren, per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties, in­dige­nous peo­ples and mi­grant work­ers.

The coun­try also touted achieve­ments in the fields of hu­man se­cu­rity, ed­u­ca­tion, health, so­cial ser­vices, la­bor and en­vi­ron­ment.

It made 12 vol­un­tary pledges and com­mit­ments should it win a fresh term at the coun­cil, in­clud­ing work­ing with states and stake­hold­ers in a con­struc­tive man­ner to fos­ter di­a­logue and co­op­er­a­tion at the coun­cil.

The Philip­pines also vowed to con­tinue “to fo­cus on bridg­ing na­tional, re­gional and in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights goals, stan­dards and strategies” and “to en­hance do­mes­tic im­ple­men­ta­tion of all hu­man rights treaty obli­ga­tions and pro­grams, es­pe­cially with re­gard to the erad­i­ca­tion of ex­treme poverty, re­spect for the rule of law and ful­fill­ment of in­ter­na­tion­ally agreed devel­op­ment goals.” –


UN con­fer­ence of­fi­cers hold up empty bal­lot boxes be­fore col­lect­ing bal­lots from del­e­gates at the elec­tion of new mem­bers of the UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil on Oct. 12 at the UN in New York. Top photo shows a gen­eral view of the open­ing day of the 39th UN Coun­cil of Hu­man Rights at the UN of­fices in Geneva ear­lier this year.

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