Int’l org reminds Duterte on UNCHR report: World is watching
MANILA, Philippines – An international group had a simple reminder for President Rodrigo Duterte, following his spokesperson’s pronouncements on the government’s refusal to fully heed recommendations from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC):
The world is watching you.
On its message for the country’s celebration of its 122nd Independence Day on Friday, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) urged Duterte to abide by the UNHRC report, which noted that rights violations in the Philippines happen because of a heavy-handed approach against issues about security and illegal drugs.
“If President Duterte wants to avoid a backlash from the international community, he needs to respond positively to the UN Report,” ICHRP chairperson Peter Murphy said in a statement.
“We are reminding him that the world is watching and that it will be in the interests of Philippine democracy that he pulls back his repressive policies,” he added.
Last June 4, UNHRC came out with a 26-page report urging the government to end Oplan Tokhang, the police’s prime anti-drug program implemented under Duterte’s term. According to the report, at least 8,663 persons have been killed in the war against drugs ever since the President took office.
However, the report also cited other claims that the number may even be higher than actually stated — as opposition groups say that the death toll may already be in the 30,000-range.
UNHRC also flagged allegations of police officers tampering with evidence.
Last June 6, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that Malacañang has rejected the UNHRC’s conclusions, even saying that the administration cannot fully implement the recommendations as these were “faulty.”
ICHRP took a swipe at these statements, which it placed in contrast to the government’s insistence to pass the Anti-Terrorism Bill, which would amend the Human Security Act of 2007. According to the group, such proposals should be abandoned and instead, attention should be placed on the COVID-19 response.
The anti-terror bill has drawn flak from activists and rights organizations, as it allegedly blurs the definition of terrorist acts and places powers on the executive that may be prone to abuse. However, the proposal’s supporters insist that there are safeguards against abuse.
“We are challenging the Philippine government to abandon the Anti-Terrorism Bill and instead to prioritize programs that will address the needs of Filipinos in the time of the global pandemic,” Murphy said.
“One important outcome of Ms. [Michelle] Bachelet’s report could be the decision by President Duterte to put this bill aside, never to be enacted,” he added.
The international rights community and Duterte’s government has not had the best of relations, as the former have condemned the Chief Executive’s supposed disregard for human rights.
As an answer, Malacañang officials have insisted that the international community has no right to interfere in the way the Philippines is governed.
Previously, Duterte threatened to slap UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard if the latter would conduct a probe on the alleged extrajudicial killings borne from the drug war.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.