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HRW hits UNHRC's 'failure' to act on Philippine human rights issue

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has let down the victims of human rights violations in the Philippines by failing to pass a resolution this year that would address the issue, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Wednesday.

In a statement, the HRW, an international human rights watchdog, pointed out that the UNHRC will end its 51st session in Geneva on October 7 without taking action on the Philippines' human rights situation despite the concerns raised by various sectors, including families of the victims.

"The UN Human Rights Council's failure to act on the Philippines is devastating for both the victims of human rights abuses and civil society groups that seek to uphold basic rights,” HRW Geneva director Lucy McKernan said.

"The end to council scrutiny of the Philippines reflects especially poorly on the European and other concerned governments, led by Iceland, that had banded together in 2020 to support a resolution and the UN Joint Program that sought real improvements on the ground."

HRW earlier called on the member-states of the UNHRC to adopt a strong resolution to deal with the Philippines' human rights issues in light of its government's campaign against illegal drugs, the alleged red-tagging of activists and critics, and harassment of journalists.

It pointed out that in 2020, the UNHRC resolution on the Philippines required the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor and report on the country's human rights situation until 2022.

However, the council member-states and donor countries that supported the 2020 resolution and the ensuing Philippine-UN Joint Program did not push for a 2022 resolution, the HRW said.

Citing a September report by the high commissioner's office, HRW said that rights violations continued to prevail in the country, thus a recommendation for a continued monitoring and reporting to the council.

HRW said that the UN Joint Program was designed to institutionalize human rights reforms in the Philippines amid the alleged rights abuses during the Duterte administration's drug war.

Instead of creating a commission of inquiry to investigate the alleged extrajudicial killings, it said the UNHRC in 2020 provided the Philippines "technical cooperation and capacity building that, while valuable, did not advance accountability for grave crimes."

International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan recently opposed the request of the Philippine government not to push through with the investigation into the Duterte administration's bloody war on drugs.

This came after the Philippine government argued that the tribunal lacks jurisdiction on the matter, and that the alleged crimes are insufficiently grave to warrant further action. It also pointed out that it has investigated and prosecuted the alleged crimes or is currently doing so. —Giselle Ombay/KBK, GMA News