Philippines dismisses UN rights concerns

Tells world body at General Assembly to respect sovereignty as it wages its deadly drugs war.

A young protester at a Sept. 21 protest in Manila against extra-judicial killings in the Philippines. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

Philippines Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has called on United Nations member countries to respect Manila’s right to decide on the conduct of its drug war that has killed at least 12,000 people.

Speaking in New York City at the U. N. General Assembly on, Sept 24. Cayetano said the campaign against illegal drugs is "necessary to protect and preserve the human rights of all Filipinos."

He was speaking two days after tens of thousands of people protested in Manila against what critics call the return of tyranny under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Cayetano’s speech also followed the Philippines’ rejection of more than half of 257 recommendations by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to improve rights conditions.

The suggestions were culled from member-countries’ inputs into the Philippine Universal Periodic Review earlier in May.

The Philippines, had declared the review a "victory," citing praise from several Southeast Asian countries like Cambodia and Vietnam.

It rejected 55 recommendations as "sweeping, vague, and even contradictory" and insisted the Duterte government has taken steps to address some concerns raised in May.

Among these were warnings to stave off the return of the death penalty and the lowering of the minimum age of criminal liability.

The Philippine Philippine Permanent Representative to the U.N. in Geneva insisted there was no impunity in the country.

He shrugged off calls for an impartial international probe, insisting investigations into all cases of extra-judicial killings are ongoing.

The human rights group Karapatan said 44 of the recommendations were related to the growing number of extra-judicial killings in the country, while 13 are aimed "at protecting and creating an enabling environment for human rights defenders and journalists."

Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay called Garcia's impunity claim "a lie."

The chief of the Phiippine National Police has refused to release initial results of probes of thousands of police operations that have resulted in the killings of suspects, she said.

Police Director-General Ronald de la Rosa said only Duterte can green light the release of investigation reports for close to 4,000 "legitimate police operations."

Cayetano told the U.N. General Assembly to give Duterte administration’s drug war "the benefit of the doubt."

"Our people expect that sovereignty be respected," said the foreign affairs secretary, who slammed the "politization of human rights."

He accused critics of the government of downplaying the drug menace, saying almost 60 percent of the country's villages have been infiltrated by narcotics gangs and that "4 million to 7 million Filipinos" use illegal drugs.

While the government has tapped big Chinese business groups to help fund mega drug rehabilitation centers, sterner measures are needed to defeat drug trafficking networks, Cayetano said.

The Global Impunity Index last year ranked the Philippines having the worst impunity record but ascribed this to "the increase of violence related to organized crime and increased terrorist activities by local groups linked to the Islamic State."

The Philippine government insists that most of the drug war deaths are the handiwork of "vigilante groups" or feuding narcotics gangs.

Source: UCAN

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