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Philippines accepted 200 recommendations in human rights review —Remulla

The Philippines has accepted 200 recommendations made by member-states of the United Nations Human Rights Council during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has told the UNHRC plenary.

A total of 289 recommendations were contained in the report on the Philippines and Remulla said the responses for the remaining 89 will be submitted to the UNHRC "in due course."

"The promotion and protection of human rights is a solemn constitutional commitment and constant endeavor that the Government of the Philippines shall never waver from," Remulla said.

"In this spirit, and as preliminary action, we are proud to announce the acceptance of 200 recommendations – more than two-thirds of all the recommendations during our UPR," he added.

Remulla said the Philippines accepted the recommendations on the following:  UN Joint Program, the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, a National Human Rights Action Plan, combating discrimination and gender-based violence, maintaining a moratorium on the death penalty, preventing extra-judicial killings, conducting independent investigations, decongesting prisons, further expanding access to justice, protecting human rights defenders and journalists, promoting the rights to education, health, and adequate standard of living, upholding the rights of persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, women, children, refugees, and stateless persons.

In his address, Remulla reiterated that the harassment and intimidation of  rights defenders, and extra judicial killings are not state policies.

During the “adoption” of the recommendations on the Philippines following the 41st session of the UPR, Remulla said the government will continue to make inroads in promoting human rights.

He said the Philippines was a "vibrant democracy" where freedom of expression, including the right to hold dissenting opinions, and the right to peaceful assembly is protected.

“Let me say this in no uncertain terms: There is no state policy to attack, harass or intimidate human rights defenders, including environmental rights defenders, lawyers and other practitioners of the legal profession, and the media," he said.

The Justice chief continued that "extrajudicial killing is not state policy."

"Classifying a death that occurred during an anti-illegal drug operation as extra-judicial killing by default runs counter to the tenets of due process and the rule of law," Remulla said.

“We will never tolerate the abuse of power and use of force beyond the bounds of law," he added.

The UPR, which held its 41st session this year, assesses the UN member-states’ human rights records and addresses violation and abuses if they occur. 

Each country review is assisted by a “troika” or a group of three states done through a drawing of lots.  

Marshall Islands, Namibia and Poland assisted the Philippines in the report. 

Earlier, some member-nations of the UNHRC urged the Philippines to take action to protect and promote human rights, including addressing killings of the war on drugs and ensuring access to justice for victims.

Remulla said some of the claims and recommendations in the report “rest on less than solid premises or are not in line with our cultural values, religious beliefs, and national identity.” 

He also said that “claims of a shrinking civic and media space are unfounded.”

“They arise from a particular politico-security context that is oftentimes overlooked by those that view the Philippines from afar,” he said.

He said the Philippines continues to deal with the longest-running armed communist insurgency in the world, adding that its “adherents deliberately blur the lines between civic activism and armed violence.”

“In the interest of fairness and objectivity, we call on our colleagues – partners
- in the UN to exercise due diligence in the consideration of allegations
received from various sources,” he said.

Remulla added the administration is determined to solve the insurgency problem through a whole-of-nation strategy anchored on good governance, rule of law and social justice. —LDF, GMA Integrated News