Remulla to stress rule of law, due process at UNHRC review

Remulla to stress rule of law, due process at UNHRC review
Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla in a press conference at the Department of Justice building in Manila on Wednesday (September 28, 2022).
STAR / Ernie Penaredondo

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said Thursday that he would present the Marcos administration's supposed gains in the arena of human rights and the rule of law before the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In a departure statement sent to reporters, Remulla said that he would share ongoing initiatives of the Department of Justice, which he "labelled as a comprehensive reform program of 'Real Justice in Real Time.'"

The justice chief is set to attend the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines. The UPR is a peer-review mechanism of the UNHRC to evaluate the compliance and performance of member states on a regular basis.

"I am going to the UPR with a very clear message: The Philippines, under the leadership of President Ferdinand Marcos, is working to deliver transformational reform of its justice and law enforcement sectors – to enhance the enjoyment of human rights of all our citizens – based on the rule of law and respect for due process," his statement read.

RELATED: Remulla tells UN: Philippines strengthening HR mechanisms

Remulla said he would share, among other things, his department's "concrete measures to decongest our prisons, improve case build-up through cooperation between prosecutors, investigators, and the Commission on Human Rights, and reaching out to civil society to strengthen witness protection."

He added that he would present the national government's "gains in terms of the protection of vulnerable groups, such as migrants and children."

"Our delegation looks forward to listening to the observations and any new recommendations that UN Member States will put forward. In the UPR, each country is free to respond to issues in the manner it deems most appropriate. There is no obligation to accept all recommendations," he also said in his departure statement.

"In any case, the Philippines will engage constructively and openly based on the principles of sovereign equality, independence, and dialogue. Human rights are part of the vibrant fabric of Philippine society and democratic governance. We are thus confident that our UPR session will be fruitful."

RELATED: In first 100 days in office, Marcos rejects hopes for Philippines rejoining ICC

UN Human Rights Committee report

The Philippine delegation consists of senior officials from the Department of Justice, the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, including the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations in Geneva.

The UPR comes after United Nations Human Rights Committee released a report last weekend that called out the Philippine government over its bloody “war on drugs” and the chilling effect of media killings on press freedom.

The Committee, composed of human rights experts, also expressed concern that the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 was being used to “legitimize the targeting of government critics, human rights defenders and journalists, including through ‘red-tagging,’ and consequent chilling effects on freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association.”

Remulla has made clear his stances on a number of human rights-related issues such as red-tagging in the Philippines, which he once called "a part of democracy" after equating it with the freedom to criticize.

"If [critics] can dish it out, then they should be able to take it, especially if they are supporting those who are promoting the death of our people, our policemen, civilian, youth and children," he was quoted as telling a panel of UN experts earlier.

The UPR of the Philippines is set to be held on November 14.  — Franco Luna with a report from Kristine Joy Patag

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