MANILA, Philippines — It would be up to President Duterte to decide whether the Philippines should withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which adopted an Iceland-initiated resolution seeking a review of his crackdown on illegal drugs, Malacañang said yesterday.
“Let us allow the President to give his final position on this,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters when asked about the possibility of the country withdrawing from the UNHRC. “(He has the) final decision on this matter because he is the main architect of the foreign policy of our country.”
Malacañang described the resolution as an “abuse” of the council processes, saying the 18 countries that voted for it “unceremoniously grabbed the platform provided by the UNHRC.”
“The Philippine government rejects in the strongest terms the Iceland-led resolution recently adopted by the (UNHRC),” Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said in a statement. “The Philippine government sees the resolution for what it is – a pernicious act, an affront to a sovereign, peace-loving nation, and an abuse of UNHRC processes.”
He said that through the resolution, “a minority has short-circuited and rendered inutile the time-honored mechanisms by which the UN maintains the accountability of member-states, such as the treaty body system and the UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review.”
He said the Philippines, as one of the pioneering members of the UN, has been abiding by these mechanisms because they embody the processes that give due credence to member-states’ accountability and transparency.
“It is through such mechanisms that the human rights concerns mentioned in the resolution should have been taken up, verified and addressed,” Medialdea said.
“No resolution from any international council, especially those led by the States that are misinformed about the situation in our country, shall weaken our resolve to effectively protect our people’s lives, their properties and their freedoms,” Medialdea declared. “We call on the diplomatic community to listen more to the Filipino people, rather than let a few political organizations mislead your capitals as to the real state of human rights in our country.”
Last March, the Philippines withdrew the Philippines’ ratification of the Rome Statute, the treaty that formed the International Criminal Court, over the ICC’s decision to conduct a preliminary examination on the drug war.
The Duterte administration maintains that the ICC never had jurisdiction over the Philippines because the Rome Statute was not published in the government’s official publication.
The ICC, however, previously claimed the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC would not affect the country’s obligation to cooperate with the investigation.
Last Saturday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. hinted at the possible withdrawal of the Philippines from the UNHRC, saying the Philippines needs to follow the United States, which had walked out of the body to protest its supposed bias against Israel.
“No embassy in Iceland. Nor does Iceland have an embassy here. Iceland took the place of the US after it withdrew from the Human Rights Council. I think we need to follow America more,” Locsin said on his Twitter account last Saturday.
Eighteen countries – some of them hosts to sizable populations of Filipino migrant workers – voted in favor of the resolution calling for a “comprehensive report” on the human rights situation in the Philippines, including the deaths tied to Duterte’s war on illegal drugs. Fourteen countries objected to the resolution while 15 others abstained from the voting.
While Panelo could not categorically say whether the Philippines would withdraw from the UNHRC, he said Manila should “take a serious look” into its relationship with the countries that backed the resolution.
“For all we know, they may be the ones taking a second look given the brouhaha that brought about this vote. Because I have repeatedly said – it was I who analyzed the vote and I said – and many are adopting it – that in a democracy a simple majority rules. And there was no simple majority here,” Panelo said.
“In fact, even an overwhelming rejection because only 18 votes as against 14 votes denying the resolution, and 15 of them did not register a ‘yes’ vote, which means these 15 are not inclined to make a definite stand in relation to that resolution. That means it’s not a UN vote,” he added.
The 18 countries who supported the Iceland-led resolution were Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Uruguay.
Those who voted against the resolution are the Philippines, Angola, Bahrain, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Hungary, India, Iraq, Qatar, Somalia and Saudi Arabia, while those who abstained were Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, Democratic Republic of Congo, Japan, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia.
Panelo said the countries who are seriously concerned about the human rights issues in the Philippines should have communicated formally to the administration.
“But they are not doing it. They just listen to the lies that reach them, to the baseless statements of the enemies of the administration and they believe in them. They already made a judgment that the government is behind the alleged extrajudicial killings,” he said.
Panelo maintained that some of the fatalities of the drug war had violently resisted law enforcers.
“I do not understand why they cannot see the truth that almost 100 policemen have been killed by the (drug) syndicates. I do not understand why they cannot see that more than 700 policemen are now in critical condition because of the violent resistance of the subjects of police operations,” the spokesman said.
Panelo said the Iceland-led resolution is not legally binding and could not compel the Philippines to allow the entry of UNHRC investigators. He noted that the government has the authority to decide whether to allow the entry of foreigners in the Philippines.
“We are not hiding anything. Every operation in the war on illegal drugs is recorded. So, all they have to do is to ask us, not prejudge us,” he said.
“You know, they have to believe what this government tells them because this government doesn’t lie,” he added.
More than 6,000 people have died since Duterte waged a war on narcotics, according to police data.
“When the (Philippine National Police) says that is the figure, then that is the recorded figure and everyone should believe that because the PNP is not in the business of lying, it is in the business of securing’s peace and order in this country,” Panelo said.
A sovereign government, according to the Palace spokesman, has the discretion on whether to respond to any question concerning its affairs.
‘Better things to do’
Malacañang also distanced itself from the statement of an official of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) who claimed that Vice President Leni Robredo can be impeached for backing the UNHRC resolution.
PACC Commissioner Manuelito Luna previously said Robredo’s expression of support for the UNHRC resolution constitutes betrayal of public trust, a ground for impeachment.
Luna claimed Robredo, the leader of the opposition, made it appear that the Duterte administration had committed human rights abuses.
Asked if Malacañang would support the proposal to impeach Robredo for supporting the UNHRC resolution, Panelo replied: “Then let’s ask one, the Supreme Court; second, impeachment court. But you know, we have better things to do. There are so many problems in this country.”
“I will leave it to those who would want to initiate whatever they want to initiate against whomsoever,” he added. – With Edith Regalado, Delon Porcalla