Philippines delighted at election to UNHRC

But human rights watchdog opposes country’s election to UN Human Rights Council

Manila: The palace hailed the election of the Philippines to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), saying that the new mandate proves that the country is heading in the proper direction in protecting a basic entitlement.

“This means that the government remains consistent with the views of the United Nations with regards to human rights,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said on Saturday.

On October 12, 2018, the Philippines was among the countries voted to the UNHRC during elections held in New York, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

There are a total 47 countries making decisions in the UNHRC. With its election to the UN rights panel, the Philippines will get to serve another three-year term in the Geneva-based council, from 2019 to 2021.

Ambassador Teodoro Locsin Jr., the Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN and incoming Foreign Secretary, said the Philippines was given 165 votes by the 192 member-states of the world body.

Incumbent Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, said the Philippines’ election to the UN rights panel, shows “that many in the international community remain convinced the Philippines respects and protects human rights and have seen through the efforts of some to politicise and weaponise the issue.”

According to Cayetano, the Philippines was elected to the rights council despite a “well-orchestrated effort by non-government groups to paint a wrong picture of the human rights situation in the country.”

Earlier, the non-government watchdog the Human Rights Watch (HRW) opposed the candidacy of the Philippines to the UNHRC.

“UN member countries should show their outrage at the Philippines and Eritrea, by leaving two spots on the ballot sheet blank and keeping them off the council,” said Louis Charboneau, HRW Director.

“The Philippines is undergoing a human rights crisis that may amount to crimes against humanity. Since (President Rodrigo) Duterte took office in July 2016, more than 12,000 suspected drug dealers and users have been gunned down in what they call ‘legitimate police operations,’ Charboneau said in a statement.

Reacting to HRW’s criticism, Cayetano said some so-called groups championing the cause of human rights were leveraging on the negative perception on the country’s human rights record “in order to solicit funds from donors.”

“It’s budget season in Europe. That’s why they’re noisy, because they want to get additional funds,” said Cayetano.

For his part, Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Oscar Albayalde on Friday said the government believes that there are no extrajudicial killings (EJKs) taking place under the Duterte administration.

“Not even the CHR (Philippine Commission on Human Rights) had said that there is solid proof that EJKs are taking place in the country,” he said.

The CHR is an independent state arm charged with protecting human rights.

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