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PHL has nothing to hide regarding human rights record — Cayetano

Despite dismissing 154 of the United Nations Human Rights Council's 257 recommendations to improve its rights situation, the Philippines on Sunday said the country has nothing to hide regarding its human rights record.

"The final adoption of our UPR Report during the 36th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva demonstrates that the Philippines has nothing to hide," Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement released by the local government of Taguig City.

"President Duterte has always made it clear from the beginning that respect for human rights will always be a priority of his administration," he added.

The UNHRC is an inter-governmental body responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe.

The UPR (Universal Periodic Review) is a review of each member state's human rights record.

Cayetano's remarks come after the 47-member UNHRC adopted the UPR during the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

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.

"The accepted recommendations mirrored the recommending States' understanding of the current human rights situation in the Philippines," Ambassador Evan P. Garcia said in the same statement.

Garcia currently serves as the Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

According to Garcia, 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."

Among the recommendations fully accepted by the Philippines are those that pertained to the sustainable protection of family and society in general, and those enhancing the current capacities of the country to protect the right to life, liberty, and property.

According to Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Jose Luis Martin "Chito" C. Gascon, however, the recommendations rejected by the Philippines were in relation to "more serious human rights violations."

"[I]t can not be disputed that the Philippine Government refused to accept the specific recommendations pertaining to the most serious human rights violations such as EJK and Torture," Gascon said in a text message.

He added that the refusals included the "adamant refusal to allow for the entry into the country of the UN Special Rapporteurs that could help shed light on these issues."

"If the DFA intends to show its sincerity to the international community with regards to the State's human rights obligations it must now take steps to operationalize President Duterte's invitation to allow long term human rights monitors into the country and ensure that the costs of maintaining the same are adequately provided for," the CHR chair argued.

"If they are serious in making progress for human rights, the government must reconsider its decision to reject or merely take note of the other UPR recommendations and instead unequivocally accept them."

To recall, the House of Representatives on September 12 voted to give the Commission on Human Rights a budget of only P1,000 for for 2018.

This was met with opposition by several parties, including United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions Agnes Callamard, who called the move "reprehensible and unconscionable."

The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) likewise expressed concerns over the vote, saying that it does not send the right signal to investors.

The House Committee on Appropriations on September 20 said it will restore the CHR's budget, though committee chair Representative Karlo Nograles later said it would not be restored in full.

Cayetano said the Philippines will remain committed to meeting international human rights standards.

"The Philippines remains fully committed to meeting its human rights obligations in compliance with the Constitution and international human rights obligations," he said.

"The dignity of the Filipino people is uppermost among our priority concerns," he added. — Jon Viktor D. Cabuenas/BM, GMA News