Can PH go it alone? | Malaya Business Insight

Nonato, V. & Montermayor, J. (2019, July 16). Can PH go it alone?. Malaya Business Insight. Retrieved July 16, 2019 from

Can PH go it alone?

IS the Philippines prepared to go it alone?

Sen. Panfilo Lacson raised the question yesterday after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. floated the possibility of the Philippines withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“At the rate we are withdrawing from the UN bodies, it could only be a matter of time when we will be left to our own devices,” Lacson said in a Twitter post.

“We may not know when, what and how, but being a developing country, we may need to ask for help from the community of nations sooner or later,” he added.

Locsin floated the idea of withdrawing days from the UNHRC after the council approved a suggestion of Iceland to review the Philippines’ war against the illegal drugs trade and thousands of deaths linked to it.

The Philippines is serving as HRC member for its second consecutive term, from 2019 to 2021. Prior to this, the country sat as one of the council’s Asia-Pacific member states during the 2006-07, 2008-10, 2012-14, and 2016-18 cycles.

Last year, the Philippines withdrew from the International Criminal Court amid controversy related to the drug killings, with President Duterte saying his government has enough mechanisms to ensure that the justice system functioned properly. The withdrawal became official in March this year.

The Philippines has rejected the UNHRC move last Thursday to adopt a resolution, initiated by Iceland, by a vote of 18 countries in favor, 14 against (including China), with 15 abstentions (including Japan) at the 47-member forum in Geneva. The resolution expresses concern over alleged rights violations in Philippines.

Malacañang again rejected the resolution.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, in a statement yesterday, said the resolution is “a pernicious act, an affront to a sovereign, peace-loving nation, and an abuse of UNHRC processes.”

“And we believe that many, if not most of the UNHRC members, see it in the same light, as shown by the contentious vote leading up to the resolution, with the majority either abstaining or voting against it,” he also said.

“We reject this resolution because, through it, a minority has short-circuited and rendered inutile the time-honored mechanisms by which the UN maintains the accountability of member-states, such as the treaty body system and the UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review. The Philippines, as one of the pioneering members of the UN, has been abiding by these mechanisms, as they embody the processes that give due credence to member-states’ accountability and transparency. It is through such mechanisms that the human rights concerns mentioned in the resolution should have been taken up, verified and addressed,” he added.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said a decision on severing or maintaining ties with other countries is the call of the President as the “chief architect of the foreign policy.”

Panelo said personally, he believes diplomatic ties should be cut with countries that maintain positions against the Philippines’ independence and sovereignty.

The Philippines and Iceland established ties in February 1999 but the two have yet to put up embassies and are only maintaining consulate offices in Makati City and in Reykjavick, respectively .

Duterte on Friday mocked Iceland for initiating the resolution, claiming that the problem of Nordic nation is that it had too much ice and does not understand the social, economic and political problems in the Philippines.

Panelo reiterated the Philippines has nothing to hide in connection with its war against drugs.

He said government records show that around 5,000 persons have died in connection with the drugs war. Critics say the drugs war has claimed some 27,000 lives.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Philippines can consider leaving the United Nations altogether.

Although he said such a move would be “up to the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs,” Sotto grumbled about the $8.2-million (roughly P445 million) mandatory contribution paid to the UN last year.

Leaving the United Nations would be almost unprecedented. All 193 sovereign states are currently members (the Vatican City and Palestine are observer states). Most former UN members merged with or broke up into different states, while Taiwan lost its membership to communist China under the “One-China” policy.

Like Locsin, Sotto cited the example of the United States in, at the very least, leaving the UNHRC.

The United States withdrew in 2018 as it disapproved of the council’s scrutiny into abuses committed by Israel against Palestinians.

“They have dismembered themselves from the UNHRC and the reason they gave is that it is hypocritical and self-serving group and it’s making a mockery of human rights,” Sotto said.

Sotto also complained that the UN HRC rules were “illogical” because Iceland’s resolution was supported by 18 of the council’s 47 members.

Sotto maintained the abstentions should be counted against the Iceland resolution.

“Thirty disapproved. Why? An abstention is a no. Everybody in the parliament knows that — you did not agree,” he said.

Asked if leaving the UNHRC would send a bad message to the international community, Sotto said: “Did they say that against the United States?”

VERA Files said it stands by its fact check that Communications Assistant Secretary Maria Rafael-Banaag contradicted official government data on the drugs war when she denied that tens of thousands have been killed in the Duterte administration’s controversial anti-illegal-drug campaign.

“As stated in our July 12, 2019 Fact Check (…) the figures of 16,355 “homicides under investigation” from July 1, 2016 – Sept. 30, 2017, and 3,967 “drug personalities who died in anti-drug operations” from July 1, 2016 to Nov. 30, 2017 were under the “Fighting Illegal Drugs” chapter and labelled as “#RealNumbers” in the Duterte Administration’s 2017 Year-end Accomplishment Report published by Presidential Communications Operation Office (PCOO),” Vera Files said.

It also said that the Supreme Court, in an April 2018 resolution, even asked the government to explain the more than 20,000 “officially confirmed” illegal-drug-related deaths: “This is a total of 20,322 deaths during the Duterte Administration’s anti-drug war from July 1, 2016 to November 27, 2017, or an average of 39.46 deaths every day. This Court wants to know why so many deaths happened as expressly reported under the section “Fighting Illegal Drugs” of the Duterte’s Administration 2017 Yearend Report.”

Panelo said the Philippines is a dangerous place for criminals, the corrupt, and those involved in illegal drugs.

He made the statement in response to a report of the US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Project which said its study showed the Philippines is the fourth most dangerous country for civilians, owing largely to the drug war of the Duterte administration.

The group said for this year, 75 percent of those who died in connection with the anti-drug campaign of the administration are civilians, and 490 civilians have died this year.

Panelo said he agreed with the report but emphasized that the danger was against those who engage in illegal activities like crimes and corruption.

The US group said that it recorded over 450 “direct attacks targeting civilians” this year which resulted in 490 deaths.

It added that most of the incidents occurred in the Central Luzon (23 percent), Calabarzon (22 percent) and National Capital Region (10 percent).

The reports also said that the other countries worse than the Philippines in terms of violence against civilians are India, Syria and Yemen.

PNP chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde said critics of the administration’s war on drugs should train their sights on their accomplishments in the fight against illegal drugs rather than on the number of fatalities.

He reiterated that those killed during anti-illegal drug operations opted to violently resist arrest, which left policemen no choice but to defend themselves.

On the report of the Armed Conflict Location and Event Project, Albayalde said he does not know what the basis was.

He said a recent survey even ranked the Philippines as the 24th best places to live and work.

He again dared the critics to come visit the Philippines so they can find out for themselves that what is the peace and order situation is. – With Raymond Africa

Category: National | Malaya Business Insight

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