Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 26) — The Philippines hurled some strong words against 39 countries for issuing a joint statement against its war on drugs.
Diplomats led by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano took offense at the countries’ call for the government to end its bloody drug war and launch investigations into the spate of killings.
“We remain concerned about the thousands of killings and climate of impunity associated with the war on drugs, and note recent stated commitments to observe due process in investigating these crimes,” according to the joint statement read by Iceland.
“We urge the government of the Philippines to take all necessary measures to bring these killings to an end and cooperate with the international community to pursue appropriate investigations into these incidents,” it added.
In a statement released on Friday, Cayetano said the countries have let out some criticisms based on “biased and questionable information.”
“It is very unfortunate that instead of engaging us constructively, some western countries would rather criticize and impose conditions as if they can do a better job than the Philippine Government in protecting the Filipino people,” Cayetano said.
He said the country is open to investigations into the drug war as long as United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard stays out of it. He said the UN official had already prejudged the government as guilty of human rights violations.
Meanwhile, Philippine Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Maria Teresa Almojuela said the government is serious in investigating alleged human rights abuses committed by the police.
She cited the relief of the entire Caloocan City police force tainted by a series of controversies, including deaths of minors in police operations, and the filing of administrative and criminal charges to cops linked in the killings.
“There is no culture of impunity in the Philippines. We have internal mechanisms to investigate all law enforcement operations that lead to deaths,” she said.
Permanent Representative to the Philippine Mission to the United Nations Evan Garcia said other countries should not dictate on the Philippines.
“The Philippines will always be happy to accept the help of our foreign friends but we will never accept dictation on how we are managing our own internal domestic processes,” Ambassador Garcia added.
The officials said the government will continue to work with foreign counterparts to address other human rights concerns.
Government data show over 3,800 suspects have been killed in anti-drug operations since July last year, but human rights groups claim the actual number of casualties could be thousands more.
The Philippines has an estimated 4 to 7 million drug addicts, Cayetano said before the UN General Assembly in New York last Sunday. This is higher than the numbers ever cited by President Rodrigo Duterte and the Dangerous Drugs Board.
PH vs 39 countries
The following countries expressed serious concern on the Philippines’ human rights situation after the UN Human Rights Council’s 36th session in Geneva, Switzerland:
- Czech Republic
- The Netherlands
- United States
The countries also expressed regrets that the Philippines rejected UNHRC recommendations aimed at addressing serious human rights violations.
The Philippines refused to adapt 154 of 257 recommendations, particularly those pertaining to investigating extrajudicial killings, stopping the reimposition of the death penalty, and stopping the lowering of the age of criminal liability.
The 39 countries committed to provide technical assistance, should the Philippines request for it.
The Philippines’ representative to the UN, however, slammed these countries for their own human rights abuses.
“It is ironic that many of these States joining the statement are the very same States that are the sources of arms, bombs, machines and mercenaries that maim, kill and massacre thousands of people all over the world, not only during their colonial past, but even up to today,” Almojuela said.
Rift with Callamard
The countries are also calling on the Philippines to finally allow Callamard to investigate the Philippines’ human rights situation without limits and conditions.
The government had set three conditions for Callamard to be allowed to probe alleged extrajudicial killings in the drug war: Callamard must have a public debate with Duterte before the media; Duterte must be allowed to ask her questions; and she has to take an oath.
Callamard rejected these conditions, telling CNN Philippines it is not consistent with the code of conduct for special rapporteurs.