Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra

MANILA – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has recognized Manila’s efforts to establish mechanisms and address human rights issues related to its anti-illegal drugs campaign.

During the 44th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) on Tuesday, Vietnam’s diplomatic mission in Geneva, on behalf of the bloc, welcomed the country’s intent to further widen engagement with the United Nations (UN).

“We note the information provided on technical cooperation with international partners along with the NHRI (national human rights institution) and civil society, enhancement of rule of law and national accountability mechanisms,” Ambassador Le Thi Tuyet Mai, head of Vietnam’s Permanent Mission to the UN said.

“We are pleased to note the Philippines’ readiness to engage OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) in further strengthening its national mechanism on addressing extrajudicial killings, creating a monitoring system to document human rights violations among the police force.”

During the session, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra disclosed that an inter-agency panel has been formed to look into the 5,655 anti-drug operations in the Philippines where deaths occurred.

Guevarra noted that the Philippine National Police (PNP), whether or not there are complaints, is obliged to probe acts that resulted in deaths.

The review panel, external to the PNP, will re-evaluate the cases and engage all families concerned.

He said the Commission on Human Rights, the Philippines’ NHRI, will also be involved as an independent monitoring body.

The working group is scheduled to release a report by November 2020.

In his statement, Guevarra noted that the government takes each report with the diligence it deserves.

“Claims that there is impunity or near-impunity in the country find no anchor in a system that provides every avenue to examine, establish, and pursue a claim of wrongdoing by a State actor if such claim is substantiated with facts,” he said.

‘Call for objectivity’

China and Russia – countries that the Philippines is fostering stronger relations with – backed Manila and asked the OHCHR to do away with “prejudice” and “politicization”.

“In our view, the OHCHR should stick to the principle of impartiality and objectivity in its work, respect efforts by member states to promote and protect human rights, attach importance to the authoritative information provided by the member state’s government, do away with prejudice and prejudgment, and engage in constructive dialogue and cooperation with the member state’s government,” China said.

Among others, it cited its “positive assessment” on the country’s promotion of economic development, elimination of poverty, and ensuring people’s human rights.

“We support (the) Philippine government’s law enforcement actions to fight drug crimes and maintain security and social order,” it added.

Russia likewise called for objectivity as it disagreed with the OHCHR report presented by High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

“The consideration by the HRC of the Philippine issue is a clear example of the politicization of the activities of the UN. This does not promote human rights in the world and it discredits the council itself,” Russia said.

It noted that states should be allowed to resolve their human rights issues and that the international community must merely assist when it is requested and when there is consent.

“We cannot agree with the details in the report. The instruction addressed to the high commissioner from last year’s resolution does not stipulate objectivity or impartiality and it notes that there should not be the politicization of the activities of the UN. The report indicates and demonstrates how counterproductive it is to continue this approach and we wish to end it,” Russia said.

In her presentation, Bachelet said Manila’s approach to counter national security threats and illegal drugs have resulted in “severe” human rights violations.

The report cited that many of the human rights concerns in the Philippines are long-standing but have become “more acute in recent years.” (PNA)