Iceland's resolution vs. PH anti-drug drive 'divisive': exec

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

July 5, 2019, 6:48 pm

<p>Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat Undersecretary Severo Catura </p>

Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat Undersecretary Severo Catura 

MANILA-- Iceland's draft resolution against the Philippines' anti-illegal drug campaign is a "divisive motion" to the United Nations Human Right Council (UNHRC) context, a ranking official said on Friday.

The draft seeks intervention from the UNHRC to address the deaths related to the drug campaign and calls on the Philippine government to facilitate country visits by UN special rapporteurs.

In a statement, Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat Undersecretary Severo Catura said Manila has an established principle against a country-specific resolution in the UN that is also shared by a majority of the countries--to promote and enhance constructive dialogue and cooperation.

"It is the latter’s context that we view Iceland’s resolution as a divisive motion and not particularly useful in the UN Human Rights Council’s context," he said.

Catura, who is currently in Europe, clarified that "no action has been taken by the Council on the proposed resolution as there is no strong support seen, contrary to what seems to be construed by the public at this point.

"To ask the Council to take action on a situation that is unwarranted is an improper and abusive approach that undermines cooperation among States. Proper approaches, such as the Complaints Procedure of the Council should first be exhausted," he pointed out.

Catura said this mechanism ensures impartiality and objectivity of information, such as a description of relevant facts including names, dates, evidence with as much detail as possible, and is not exclusively based on media reports or groups critical to the administration, "with a showing that domestic remedies have been exhausted and that there was appropriate engagement with the State on these matters."

He said only through this mechanism that allegations of systemic and gross violations of human rights are reliable.

At present, there are no cases against the Philippines under this Complaints Procedure. "Seen in this context, Iceland’s resolution is arbitrary and an abuse of Council processes," Catura said.

Stop bullying

Catura said no resolution under any agenda item is acceptable to the Philippines, even if the intention is to promote technical cooperation as Iceland’s resolution is leaning toward.

"This will be violative of the principle that technical cooperation must be upon the request and with consent and cooperation of the concerned country. The Philippines is already actively pursuing this with international partners," he noted.

Catura also questioned the draft resolution's intention, which he said Iceland claims to be a progression from the joint statements issued in previous HRC sessions.

"We heeded the concerns raised in the resolution by informing the delegations on accountability mechanisms in the Philippines. However, Iceland insists that it wants to know the truth, but we do not know by which qualification, given that efforts are made by the government to cross-verify data and establish facts in its presentations. Iceland seems to have its own version of 'truth'," Catura said.

The official also appealed to stop the "bullying", saying the country remains open to a discussion within the Council but not in the context of the said Iceland resolution.

"The Philippines remains open to engagements on the concerns raised by Iceland, but only within the UNHRC, and not in the context of a resolution that constitutes a hostile action against us, and which only serves the interest of groups highly critical of the administration in their mission to blame and shame the country before the world," he said.

PH reviews human rights commitments

Catura argued that the country regularly reviews the implementation of all its human rights commitments, including the Universal Period Review.

"We have a regular constructive dialogue with the various UN treaty bodies on international human rights treaties to which we are a signatory," he said.

"In the last and in the current UNHRC sessions, we engaged with UN Special Rapporteurs in intimate one-on-one consultative meetings that have proved to be very productive," he said.

Under the EU General System of Preference Plus (GSP +), he added that the same concerns on human rights are "effectively addressed."

Under the GSP+ scheme, the Philippines is allowed tariff-free exports of over 6,000 local products to the EU since December 2014 under the condition that it would comply to 27 core international conventions that cover human and labor rights, environmental protection and good governance.

Among others, the country's relevant accountability mechanisms are also in place and are working, Catura said.

"We have the AO (administrative order) 35 Inter-Agency Committee that pursues cases on extra-judicial killings, the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, and the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat, to name just three," he said.

Catura said Manila has working mechanisms and domestic processes governing law enforcement sectors and inter-agency mechanisms on the matter of reported deaths arising from the campaign, slating the "unfair generalization" against the government initiative.

"For example, we have clarified that since the Philippine government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign begun on July 1, 2016, there have been 1,308,078 surrenderers," he said.

"We conducted 132,152 anti-illegal drugs operations that resulted in 190,002 arrests. The deaths arising from these operations should be seen in this context," he added.

Catura highlighted that the Philippine National Police continues to conduct motu proprio investigations where operations resulted in deaths, regardless of whether or not there are complainants.

The government has also laid down the groundwork for "effective holistic rehabilitation of more than a million self-confessed drug dependents."

"The Filipino people, in a free democratic exercise, handed the administration an overwhelming victory during the May mid-term elections this year," he said.

"This is an ample demonstration of popular endorsement of the administration by the people which no foreign interest should question," he noted.

Catura reiterated that the Philippines takes its human rights obligations seriously, primarily to its people.

"As a UNHRC member in its fifth term, the Philippines has invested so much in this institution, and has led, in collaboration with UNHRC members, initiatives and resolutions on rights of women and children, persons with disabilities and old people, climate change, youth, human rights education, migrants, trafficking etc. – initiatives that promote balance and unity in the Council on critical issues," he said. (PNA)