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PHL at risk of being removed from UN Human Rights Council — HRW

There is enough basis to consider the removal of the Philippines from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), international group Human Rights Watch said over the weekend.

"We feel that the Philippines is in violation of its membership obligations and that the General Assembly would have grounds to consider its removal [from the UNHRC]," HRW Geneva advocacy director John Fisher said in an interview.

This comes after Fisher said the Philippines has not fulfilled its obligations as part of the 47 states that comprise the UNHRC.

"Being a member of the Human Rights Council is not a right, it's a privilege for governments," he said, noting that members should both uphold the highest standards of human rights, and cooperate with the council.

"On both counts, the Philippines strikes out and clearly, the government is not upholding the highest standards of human rights when people can be killed in this country with impunity and that's what we're seeing happening," he added.

Palace reaction

Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo on Monday said the Philippines will not be removed from the United Nations Human Rights Council over drug-related related killings in the country.

In an interview on Unang Balita, Panelo cited that the UNHRC had recently adopted the Philippines' human rights report.

"Remember, the Foreign [Affairs] Secretary [Alan Peter] Cayetano pumunta sa UN noon eh, tinanggap 'yung kanyang report," Panelo said.


Just last month, the UNHRC decided to adopt the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines during the 36th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The Philippines, however, dismissed 154 of the UNHRC's 257 recommendations to improve its rights situation.

"Many, many states called for an end to the killings and end to the inflammatory rhetoric by the President, by President Duterte, for the Philippines to put in place investigations into these deaths, and for those responsible to be held into account," Fisher said.

"Disappointingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the Philippines when it came to Geneva just a couple of weeks ago and gave its responses, rejected every single recommendation that related to ending the killings of holdings those to account," he added.

Fisher said the government is sending out a message that it will not take responsibility for human rights abuses.

"I think that sends a very clear message to the international community that the government has no interest in itself taking responsibility for ending these abuses or for complying with its international human rights obligations," he said.

"For us at Human Rights Watch, what that means is the United Nations has no option but to step in," he added.

Just last week, a group called the Philippine Universal Period Review Watch called on the UNHRC to remove the Philippines as a member, amid the government's "continued denial" of the alleged extrajudicial killings in the country.

"I think that's a perfectly legitimate call to make. When a government is engaged in a violation to something so basic as the right to life, and has no apparent interest in investigating the killings or holding people responsible, then it's a perfectly legitimate that groups would be calling for [its] removal from the Human Rights Council," Fisher said.

"As I said, there are obligations to council membership and it's clear that the Philippines is in violation of those obligations," he added.

GMA News Online has reached out to the Philippine National Police (PNP) for comment, but no response has been received as of posting. —BM/KG, GMA News