In this May 18, 2018 photo, the UN Human Rights Council special session on “the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”. The council recently adopted a resolution mandating a "comprehensive" international review of the Philippines' drug war.
UN Photo/Elma Okic
Will the Philippines quit UN rights body?
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - July 15, 2019 - 11:16am

MANILA, Philippines — Following the adoption of a resolution for a review of the Philippine government's drug war, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. hinted at a possible withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The Philippines' top diplomat said the country needs to "follow" the United States, which withdrew from the council in June 2018.

"Iceland took the place of the US after it withdrew from the Human Rights Council. I think we need to follow America more," Locsin tweeted Saturday.

Iceland, which was elected to serve as member of the UNHRC from July 2018 to December 2019, filed the resolution calling for a comprehensive review of the Philippines' campaign against illegal drugs.

Locsin also earlier said any investigation resulting from the resolution of Iceland will not be allowed in the Philippines.

"I have long wanted international cooperation in the drug war, eg. USDEA, Russia. Never from people who don't shower at least once daily [and] likely on cartel payroll," Locsin said on Twitter.

Locsin gave no proof that those raising rights concerns are "on cartel payroll" as he also previously alleged on his Twitter account.

The Foreign Affairs secretary himself admitted that the "temptation is strong to walk away" but maintained that the Philippines will remain in the council as it must "remain true to the cause of human rights."

Philippines won fresh seat on council in October

In October 2018, the Philippines was elected for another term on the 47-member council from 2019 to 2021. The country won one of 13 seats allotted for Asia-Pacific states.

According to the official website of the UNHRC, members will serve for a periof of three years and will be ineligible for immediate reelection after serving two consecutive terms.

Locsin's predecessor Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig-Pateros) then hailed the Philippines' reelection to the UNHRC, claiming that UN member-states "understood where we are coming from."

Member-states of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) elect the 47 members of the council, taking into account the candidate states' contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights.

Under Resolution 60/251 of the UNGA, members of the UNHRC "shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, shall fully cooperate with the Council and be reviewed under the universal periodic review mechanism during their term of membership."

Why US left rights council

Washington pulled out from the council last year, accusing the human rights body of "chronic bias" against Israel. Prior to its withdrawal from the council, US President Donald Trump had been criticizing the body's focus on Israeli actions in Palestinian-controlled territory.

The New York Times noted then that it was the first time for a member to voluntarily leave the council. "The United States now joins Iran, North Korea and Eritrea as the only countries that refuse to participate in the council’s meetings and deliberations," it also reported.

Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, in her announcement of America's departure from the council said the body had become "a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias."

She said that "human rights abusers continue to serve on and be elected to the council" and that "the world's most inhumane regimes continue to escape scrutiny."

She also said that the council had not taken action on the human rights situations in Venezuela, Cuba, and China—all are members of the UNHRC.

The US also objected to the election of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the council, saying the country is "widely known as to have one of the worst human rights records in the world."

The Democratic Republic of the Congo abstained from voting on the resolution on the Philippines' right situation. Cuba and China voted against it.

'Disappointing, not surprising'

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN high commissioner for human rights at the time, said this move from the Trump administration was "disappointing, if not really surprising."

It was the US that created the UNHRC in 2006 to replace the UN Human Rights Commission.

Washington's withdrawal from the council that it founded more than a decade ago was seen as another step in the Trump administration's "retreat from the world stage", according to Forbes senior contributor Michael Posner.

According to The Washington Post, the departure of the US from the rights council leaves its allies as "ready targets." The Philippines and the US have been allies for more than 70 years, one of the longest alliances in the region.

Despite this alliance, Washington had also been critical of the Philippines' drug war, earning the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The adoption of the resolution seeking an investigation into the Philippines' bloody drug war comes at a time when the US is no longer part of the UNHRC.

EXPLAINER TEODORO LOCSIN JR. UNITED NATIONS UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL UNITED STATES WAR ON DRUGS
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