File photo shows a general view of a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, Switzerland, where member states yesterday voted to approve a resolution mandating a ‘comprehensive’ international review of the drug war in the Philippines. The resolution, initially proposed by Iceland, secured the backing of 18 states in the 47-member council, with 14 nations voting against and 15 abstentions.
UN rights council votes to review Philippine killings
Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) - July 12, 2019 - 12:00am

GENEVA – The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) yesterday narrowly approved a resolution mandating a “comprehensive” international review of the Philippines’ drug war, which has killed thousands of people.

Manila, however, rejected what it called a “tiny, minority-approved” measure that “insulted” the Philippines.

The resolution had faced strong pushback from President Duterte’s government, which counters that the toll has been exaggerated – its estimates say 6,600 have died – and that the crackdown has the strong support of many Filipinos.

Duterte’s three-year drug war has unleashed a surge of bloodshed in the Philippines, with reports of almost nightly slaying of suspects by police and masked gunmen. 

Activists said they had initially hoped the UN resolution would call for a formal “inquiry,” but compromised on a “report” to win a majority.

The text, initially proposed by Iceland, secured the backing of 18 states in the 47-member rights council, with 14 nations voting against and 15 abstentions.

It calls on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to prepare a “comprehensive written report on the situation of human rights in the Philippines,” over the coming year.

Manila’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Evan Garcia, immediately rejected the result.

“We will not accept a politically partisan and one-sided resolution,” Garcia said after the vote, reading a statement on behalf of Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

“This resolution does not represent a triumph of human rights but a travesty of them,” Garcia said, adding “there will be far-reaching consequences.”

“Actually no effect but for those who voted to insult us, the consequences will be far reaching,” Locsin said on Twitter.

“The Philippines rejects this resolution. It cannot, in good conscience, abide by it. We will not accept a politically partisan and one-sided resolution, so detached from the truth on the ground. It comes straight from the mouth of the Queen in Alice in Wonderland… First the judgment, then the proof,” Locsin said in a statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

According to Locsin, the adoption of the resolution has “no effect as such resolutions, especially those passed by a tiny minority, can and will be ignored.” 

“By a tiny minority, rejections and abstentions vastly outnumbered it,” Locsin said.

When the former UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein previously raised concern about the drug war, Duterte called him an “idiot” and a “son of bitch.”

‘Crucial step’

The deputy Geneva director for Human Rights Watch, Leila Matar, described the resolution as “a modest but vital” step that “signals the start of accountability for thousands of ‘drug war’-related killings.”

Amnesty International hailed Thursday’s vote as “crucial.” 

It “provides hope for thousands of bereaved families in the Philippines and countless more Filipinos bravely challenging the Duterte administration’s murderous ‘war on drugs’,” Amnesty’s regional director for east and southeast Asia, Nicholas Bequelin, said in a statement.

In addition to a report by Bachelet, the report raises concern on a range of alleged abuses under Duterte, including “killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention,” among others.  

‘PNP respects rights’

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said it carries out its duties with respect for human rights.

“We assure the public that the PNP remains vigilant to prevent occurrence of crimes and will continue to perform its mandate to enforce the law following established operational procedures with utmost respect for human rights,” PNP spokesman Col. Bernard Banac said yesterday.   

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