PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday assured the international community that the Philippines upholds and protects the human rights of Filipinos even as some groups continue to “weaponize” the issue to discredit his administration.
Duterte issued the statement in response to the threat of some members of the European Union to revoke the zero-tariff export status given the Philippines under the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) unless it improves its human rights situation.
In his virtual message during the 75th United Nations General Assembly debate in the United States, Duterte said: “The Philippines will continue to protect the human rights of its people, especially from the scourge of illegal drugs, criminality, and terrorism,” Duterte said.
Addressing the UN for the first time since becoming president in 2016, he said there are a number of “interest groups” that have weaponized the human rights issue and used it to “discredit the functioning institutions and mechanisms of a democratic country and a popularly elected government which in its last two years still enjoy the same widespread approval and support.”
He said the detractors pass themselves off as human rights advocates while preying on the most vulnerable humans, like the children whom they allegedly used as child soldiers or human shields in encounters and the schools being used for anti-government propaganda.
“They hide their misdeeds under the blanket of human rights but the blood oozes through.
To move forward, open dialogue and constructive engagement with the United Nations is the key. But these must be done in full respect of the principles of objectivity, non-interference, non-selectivity and genuine dialogue. These are the fundamental bases for productive international cooperation on human rights,” Duterte said.
He said the Philippine government will continue to fight terrorism and violent extremism by addressing the root causes or problems, and sustaining the rebuilding of communities affected by terrorist activities, among others.
Duterte said an example of such actions is the continuing rebuilding of war torn-Marawi City that was under siege four years ago and the passage of the 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte, in his UNGA address, merely emphasized that he would “continue with even more passion, in the last two years, this war on drugs criticisms notwithstanding.”
Duterte, during the campaign, promised to end illegal drugs within six month of his term but later withdrew it, claiming he did not expect the magnitude of the problem and would try to lessen the problem before his term ends.
Allegations of deaths, however, had accompanied the administration’s war on drugs.
Roque said despite the pronouncement of the President, the administration is still not inclined to allow United Nations special rapporteurs to come to the county and investigate alleged on drug operation-related deaths.
“No need because under the UN system, the state’s consent is required and believe me, there’s no need to allow into the country so-called experts with very fixed biases against the Philippines already. The fact that we are not allowing them in is a sovereign prerogative recognized by the UN system. There’s nothing that the UN can do if we do not allow rapporteurs into our country,” he said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
He added the legal systems and processes in the country are all in place and working and various forms of remedies are available to alleged victims of human rights violations. He said the victims can file cases in court, file complaints against policemen at the People’s Law Enforcement Board, the National Police Commission, or the Ombudsman for the military.