Human rights groups said they are “reasonably cynical” of the statements made by the Rodrigo Duterte government in response to the damning report on the state of human rights in the Philippines submitted to the United National (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) last Tuesday, June 30.
Reacting to justice secretary Menardo Guevarra’s reply to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle’s Bachelet’s submission, the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) said the Duterte administration appears to be on damage control and pre-empting further accountability on the thousands of anti-illegal drugs deaths.
“Saccharine statements at appeasing widespread condemnation and creating yet another government body to address unabated impunity and support self-serving claims that domestic remedies are adequate, prompt and credible become soporific in the face of previous experience and present realities,” EcuVoice said in a statement.
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The group noted that the government’s reply was delivered in “more sober and studied tones,” a departure from the combative manner it contested various reports by UN experts in Geneva, Switzerland during the HRC’s 43rd general session last March.
EcuVoice however said Bachelet’s findings of massive human rights violations and the near-impunity by which it happens in the country warrant an in-country independent investigation as well as “options for international accountability measures” should the government refuse to cooperate.
In his speech delivered online at the opening of the UNHRC’s 44th general session, Guevarra denied impunity exists under the Duterte government, adding Duterte has discharged his campaign promises “faithfully.”
“Our President ran and won on a campaign promise of a drug-free Philippines where our people are safe and their rights protected,” Guevarra said.
Guevarra said the government’s monitoring mechanism called RealNumbersPH ensures public transparency and full accountability” on drug-related killings.
“We have also established an inter-agency panel, chaired by my office, that is quietly conducting a judicious review of the 5,655 anti-illegal drugs operations where deaths occurred. The Philippine National Police is obliged by its internal mechanisms to conduct motu propio investigations — whether or not there are complainants — on all law enforcement operations that result in deaths, and take action on this basis,” he said.
Guevarra added that the government system in the country provides “every avenue to examine, establish and pursue of wrongdoing by State actors.
The justice secretary did not reply to Bachelet’s recommendation that UN investigators be allowed into the Philippines.
Earlier, President Duterte has threatened to deport, imprison or slap UN experts who dare come into the Philippines to conduct human rights investigations.
The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) said Guevarra’s statements are empty promises in light of the government’s “relentless attacks against freedom and democracy.”
“[U]ntil the government of President Rodrigo Duterte takes seriously the facts-based findings of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) Report and cooperates with the UN office for an independent, international probe these promises are nothing but empty,” the group said in a statement.
“It is hard to believe that President Rodrigo Duterte’s government is sincere in its claims of promoting and uplifting the dignity of Filipinos as Mr. Guevarra claims. Harassments, arrests, and killings of civilians are still happening on the ground with impunity,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)