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Group seeks PHL's removal from UN rights body


A group of human rights defenders and ecumenical leaders is calling for the removal of the Philippines as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) amid the Duterte administration's "continued denial" of alleged extrajudicial killings in the country.

"Throughout the three cycles of the Universal Periodic Review, and most especially during the Duterte regime's participation in the process, the Philippines has exhibited a total mockery of international human rights mechanisms, with the government's blatant distortion of facts on extrajudicial killings and human rights violations in the country, its record of using the UN as a platform to justify its crimes against the Filipino people, and its doubletalk on compliance to human rights instruments," the Philippine Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Watch said in a statement on Saturday.

"We call on the UN to revoke the membership of Philippines at the UN HRC, especially as it continues its hardheaded position against any UN investigation on the killings," said Philippine UPR Watch," the delegation added.

The Philippine UPR Watch also slammed the pronouncements of presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano for having "painted a rosy picture of the human rights situation in the Philippines" amid the violent war against illegal drugs, martial law in Mindanao and the continuing counter-insurgency programs.

Cayetano had said that the Philippines has nothing to hide with its human rights record, noting that human rights will always be a priority of President Rodrigo Duterte.

His remarks came after the 47-member UNHRC adopted the Philippines' human rights report during the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly. The UPR is a review of each member state's human rights records.

Out of the 257 recommendations received by the Philippines to improve its human rights situation, however, it only fully accepted 103, effectively dismissing 154 others.

Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Evan Garcia said  the recommendations which the Philippines accepted "recognized and respected the State as currently implementing or having implemented them, and were supportive of the Philippines' pursuit of human rights aimed at uplifting human dignity."

The Philippine UPR Watch, meanwhile, welcomed the statement of the 39 states led by Iceland that expressed concerns on the extrajudicial killings in relation to the anti-narcotics campaign and human rights violations against rights defenders, indigenous people and members of the media.

It also urged the states to withdraw their financial support to the country's security personnel.

"The statement disproves the so-called win of the Philippine government at the UNHRC. We call on these States to withdraw their financial support, if any, for the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and other programs that abet the human rights violations and the Filipino people, lest the peoples' money from these countries will be used to further worsen the current situation," the group said.

In a joint statement delivered at a meeting of the UNHRC, Iceland Representative to UN Högni Kristjánsson stated "serious concern" over the Philippine government's "climate of impunity," but noted government commitments to conduct investigations into the killings.

Malacañang had insisted that there is no culture of impunity in the country and emphasized that the Philippines will not accept "dictation" on local affairs.

The Philippine UPR Watch also reiterated its call to the international community to monitor the "worsening climate of impunity" in the Philippines and to provide support for the campaign against Duterte's supposed tyrannical acts. —Anna Felicia Bajo/ALG, GMA News

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