The Philippines on Sunday hit back at 38 states that criticized the country for alleged human rights abuses.
“We regret that Iceland and several other countries maintained their position despite our offer for them to visit the Philippines and objectively asses the human rights situation, especially at the community level,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement sent from New York, where he is presiding over a command conference for Filipino diplomats from the Americas.
Cayetano said he even invited Iceland Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson to come to Manila and observe whether human rights are being upheld in the country.
“Unfortunately, it seems our friends are really not interested in arriving at the truth and would rather rely on the misinformation being fed to them by parties that have politicized and weaponized human rights,” he said.
“Politics is politics but politicizing human rights endangers lives,” he added.
At the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council, a group of 38 states on Tuesday urged the Philippine government to put an end to drug killings and to cooperate in an investigation.
"We urge the government of the Philippines to take all necessary measures to bring killings associated with the campaign against illegal drugs to an end and cooperate with the international community to investigate all related deaths and hold perpetrators accountable," Iceland said on behalf of the group, which includes the United States, Australia, United Kingdom and Canada, among others.
Joint statement vs. Philippines
Iceland then led 10 other members of the UNHRC in signing a joint statement against the Philippines, according to the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in the statement.
“This is a minority in the 47-member Human Rights Council,” said Evan Garcia, Philippine Permanent Representative.
Garcia responded by citing the rising xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiments in parts of Europe and other countries critical of the Philippines.
“We are shocked by the persistent abusive and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, whether legal or otherwise, their lack of inclusion in society and their oftentimes woefully limited access to all kinds of services,” Garcia added.
“We remind countries that have such severe shortcomings, including the United Kingdom and Australia, that the Philippines has preferred to engage with them in a positive manner, whether bilaterally or multilaterally," Garcia said.
He cited the Global Forum for Migration and Development and current negotiations for the Global Compact on Migration as examples.
“This is in stark contrast with the needlessly confrontational attitude they have taken in [the Human Rights] Council,” Garcia said.
He also reminded the UNHRC that 80 percent of the world's refugees are welcomed by developing countries.
“It is a shame for developed countries to keep their eyes shut to this growing concern,” Garcia said.
“The Philippines, a developing country even with its more than 100 million population, has been doing its small part in sharing the global burden of the protection of refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons and other persons of concern,” he added.
Garcia also reminded the UNHRC that the Philippines "remains a responsible member of this august body."
"We are respectful of our international human rights obligations. We remain a free, dynamic and democratic society. There is no basis, therefore, for the Council to be concerned with the situation in the Philippines,” he added.
PNP determined to uphold human rights
The Philippine National Police (PNP) also reacted on Saturday and said that it is determined to ensure the safety of all Filipinos, while at the same time upholding human rights and the rule of law.
"It was never the policy of the PNP to outright kill drug suspects in anti-illegal drugs operations for they too have the right to presumption of innocence and to due process under the law," PNP spokesperson Police Senior Superintendent Benigno Durana explained in a statement.
A total of 4,279 drug suspects have been killed, while more than 140,000 others have been arrested 22 months since the anti-drug campaign was launched by the Duterte administration, the government said on May 28.
Meanwhile, a total of 143,335 drug personalities were arrested in 99,485 anti-drug operations conducted from July 1, 2016 to May 15, 2018. —KG, GMA News