Philippines, UN ink deal for capacity-building to improve human rights situation

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Philippines, UN ink deal for capacity-building to improve human rights situation
United Nations Philippines Resident Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez, Secretary of Justice Menardo I. Guevarra, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. sign the UN Joint Programme on Human Rights at the Department of Foreign Affairs
United Nations Philippines via Gaylord Hintay, Facebook release

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and the United Nations have inked a three-year joint program on human rights, following the UN Council’s October 2020 resolution outlining capacity-building and technical cooperation for the promotion of human rights in the country.

UN Philippines Resident Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. signed the UN Joint Programme on Human Rights at the DFA office on Thursday, UN Philippines said.

During the signing, Guevarra said: “This Joint Programme with the UN manifests the sincere efforts of the Philippine Government to infuse its law enforcement and investigative operations with a human rights dimension in a non-political setting.”

Gonzalez, meanwhile, noted the agreement as a "critical milestone," as "the first-ever UN joint programme on human rights in the Philippines, where we put together the capacities and resources of the UN in support of a wide range of national institutions.” 

The joint program identified the following as six areas for capacity-building and technical cooperation:

  • Strengthening domestic investigation and accountability mechanisms
  • Data gathering on alleged police violations
  • Civic space and engagement with civil society and the Commission on Human Rights
  • National mechanism for reporting and follow-up
  • Counter-terrorism legislation
  • Human rights-based approaches to drug control  

The signing came more than a year and a half since the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on technical assistance and capacity building to improve the human rights situation in the Philippines, which fell short of the independent, on-the-ground investigation that rights groups have been calling for.

The UN said it recognizes the joint initiative of the DOJ-led panel that will review drug war operations that resulted in deaths and the justice department’s data-sharing agreement with the Commission on Human Rights.

But human rights group pointed out that the inter-agency panel, created only in June 2020, was formed “too late”. As EcuVoice’s Edre Olalia put it, this may just be “a tricky assuagement to appease the cries for justice of the victims.”

After months of delay, the panel released its partial report in February where Guevarra told the UNHRC that they found that police failed to follow protocols in many anti-drug operations. Weapons allegedly recovered from those killed in the operations were not examined to check the police narrative that the "drug personalities" sought to resist arrest or that they fought back, the DOJ chief added.

Late May, Guevarra said the Philippine National Police allowed access to more than 50 administrative cases where its Internal Affairs Service found liability on cops involved in the drug war operation that resulted in deaths.

But domestic human rights groups, in their five-year assessment of the Duterte administration, stressed that in the thousands killed in the bloody “drug war,” there have been “no justice, no peace.”

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay noted, in a forum earlier this week, that there has been no known conviction of police perpetrators save for the case of Kian delos Santos.

This shows a “continuing lack of redress in an overwhelming majority of cases. These tactics demonstrate police’s power and sowed fear in communities and a tool of political control,” she added.






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