EcuVoice: UN rights resolution a 'letdown' but no victory for government
This photograph taken on September 18, 2020 shows a general view on the opening of a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council on allegations of torture and other serious violations in Belarus, in Geneva. - Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovs
AFP/Fabrice Coffrini

EcuVoice: UN rights resolution a 'letdown' but no victory for government

(Philstar.com) - October 8, 2020 - 12:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — The United Nations Human Rights Council’s resolution calling for capacity building to improve the human rights situation in the Philippines is a “let down” for human rights groups in the country, but they stressed that they will continue the call for independent probe into violations in the country.

Rights lawyer Edre Olalia, co-head of the EcuVoice delegation, said in a press conference that while the UN Human Rights Council resolution fell short of their call for an impartial probe into the country, this is still not a victory for the Philippine government.

READ: UN rights council adopts resolution for technical assistance to Philippines on rights situation

"We view this... [as] an indictment and admission that in the face of strong, persistent and broad criticism and pressure, the Philippine government caved in to appease or perhaps assuage, even temper or mollify and perhaps even pre-empt the upcoming action by the International Criminal Court in order to escape international censure and responsibility," he said.

Olalia added that they will continue to engage the UN Human Rights Council. He added that, in time, they will "push for independent and partial investigation in any other fora."

The UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday adopted a resolution on technical assistance and capacity building to improve the human rights situation in the Philippines. But the resolution stopped short of launching an independent, on-the-ground investigation, which many human rights groups have been calling for.

The council said it recognizes the joint initiative of the Department of Justice and the Commission of Human Rights on a data-sharing agreement and the government’s announcement of a creation of a review panel that would re-evaluate cases of killings during anti-drug operations.

But Olalia asserted that the review panel, led by the Department of Justice, may just be "a tricky assuagement to appease the cries for justice of the victims, as they asserted that” domestic remedies in the Philippines are by and large ineffective, protracted, ponderous, skewed and even frustrating to the victims."

Review panel created 'too late'

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, at the UNHRC’s 44th Session in July, said that an inter-agency panel was created to investigate anti-drug operations that resulted in deaths. A report is due to be released in November.

READ: Philippines to UN rights council: Panel to look into deaths in anti-drug operations

Opposition Sen. Leila De Lima, in a statement through her chief of staff, lawyer Fhilip Sawali, said the drug war review panel is “too late, too little and too weak.” He explained that De Lima viewed the creation of the panel as a “last ditch attempt... to undermine actions.”

The panel will only conduct a review, and no actual investigation that can lead to prosecution and punishment, she also said. The senator also questioned the inclusion of government agencies implicated in the "drug war" such as the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in the panel.

Asked for an update on the panel review, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra asked for more time and said they are also working on the Implementing Rules and Regulation of the anti-terrorism law.

"I will get this technical cooperation with the UN on human rights going and the review panel on drug operations resulting in deaths, before we publicly discuss them. It’s better to talk about things that are already being done [than] mere plans or proposals," the DOJ chief added.

Olalia however stressed that evaluation of the government’s sincerity and the effectiveness of the measure can only be proven if “the violations are stopped, policies are withdrawn and there is accountability.”

‘The Philippine Human Rights Situationer’

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines also reiterated their demand for an independent international investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines.

“We have come to a point where the Philippines has gained global notoriety for human rights abuses. However, we are dismayed with how disinformation and empty promises were peddled by the Philippine government before the UN body,” ICHRP chairperson Peter Murphy said in a statement late Wednesday night.

Murphy also questioned The Philippine Human Rights Situationer released in May 2020 and distributed in Geneva, which he said, "tried to pain a human rights-friendly Philippine government."

"Aside from being a misrepresentation of the human rights crisis, the situationer resorted to red-tagging and a language of vitriol that aims to discredit victims, their families calling for justice, and civil society working on the ground," he added.

The Department of Justice promised it will review a report uploaded on its website where the partylists of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela and Alliance of Concerned Teachers are branded as created by the Communist Party of the Philippines.

DOJ said the information in the report was collated by the Department of Foreign Affairs, which asked other departments to disseminate it. Guevarra said in September: “If there’s anything that we need to clarify so it will not be perceived that everything that is written there is also being adopted by the DOJ as agency.”

As of this story’s posting the report may still be accessed on the DOJ website.

Murphy pressed: "We have yet to see accountability for the thousands killed in the drug war, the crackdown against activists and the attacks against press freedom. The international community demands an independent, credible investigation on the Philippines and will continue to do so." — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from Gaea Katreena Cabico

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