Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque is seen in this file photo.
Presidential Photo/Yancy Lim
Palace dismisses UN report, says it can't commit on rights recommendations
Ratziel San Juan ( - June 6, 2020 - 1:18pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Saturday rejected the recommendations made by the United Nations to address the human rights situation in the Philippines, saying that these are based on "faulty conclusions."

This comes after the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report on Thursday which extensively detailed key human rights issues in the Philippines, including violations in President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign against illegal drugs.

RELATED: UN report: Philippines’ ‘heavy-handed’ focus on drugs, security threats led to serious rights human violations

Among its recommendations is to cease "Project Tokhang" and repeal PNP Command Memorandum Circular 2016-16 (Project Double Barrel), disband and disarm all private and state-backed paramilitary groups, as well as revoke Memorandum Order 32 (which deployed troops to Samar, Negros and Bicol) and review Executive Order 70 (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict).

The Duterte administration through presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, however, downplayed the findings and recommendations of the report.

“The Philippine Government notes the recommendations made by the OHCHR, but cannot commit to their full implementation given the faulty conclusions on which they were premised, among them the alleged violations of the right to life, the supposedly arbitrary deprivation of liberty of those involved in drug cases, the alleged violations of the right to health, and the implication that Filipino civic space is being destroyed by the focus given to public order and national security,” Roque said in a Saturday statement.

“We firmly reject these conclusions. That being said, the Government will continue to respect its international legal obligations, including human rights.”

The report is based on 893 written submissions, interviews with victims and witnesses, police reports, court documents, videos, photos, open-source material, analysis of legislation and even "substantial input from the Government of the Philippines," according to the OHCHR.

There are more than 6,000 recorded killings in the government's drug war as of 2019 based on official figures, but human rights advocates claim the death toll could be as high as 27,000.

A study from the Columbia Journalism School also found that police figures underreport drug war killings.

Moreover, human rights monitor Karapatan tallied a range of rights violations under the Duterte administration between July 2016 and June 2019, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, torture, illegal arrest with or without detention, illegal search and seizure and more.

“For Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque and the Duterte administration to baselessly smear these conclusions as ‘faulty,’ given the process conducted, is an indication of its shunning of any and all forms of independent study and views on the rights situation in the country. It is nothing but a blatant and desperate move to evade accountability amid growing opposition to the Duterte administration and its bloody reign of State terror,” Karapatan said in a statement.

“The Duterte administration should stop its charade of lies and callousness, and with this statement from the Philippines, it is imperative that the UN Human Rights Council pursue an independent investigation on the Philippine human rights situation, which is a decisive and important step to aid in delivering justice and accountability.”

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