President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (Courtesy of BBM Facebook)

MANILA – The administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has made significant strides in the promotion and protection of human rights in the country, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

Undersecretary Cheloy Garafil, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Press Secretary, said the government is implementing reform initiatives to strengthen the country's justice system.

Since Marcos assumed office on June 30, Garafil said investigative and accountability processes are being streamlined for "better case build-up".

Garafil also stressed that the current administration does not condone unlawful acts associated with anti-drug operations, noting the indictment of 25 personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) following an internal investigation on cases of abuse.

"Proving that the rule of law applies to everyone under the Marcos administration, 25 police officers were indicted, resulting from the work of the Review Panel looking into incidents in the context of the anti-illegal drug campaign," she said.

So far, 27 police officers were dismissed from service, 18 were demoted, and 98 were suspended, Garafil said.

The reforms in the justice sector, particularly the implementation of the program aimed at decongesting detention facilities, led to the recent release of over 700 persons deprived of liberty while a thorough investigation is ongoing on the case of slain journalist Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa.

"The Chief Executive has lauded the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation for doing a good job in the Percy Lapid case, noting that the it was practically solved in 17 days, with a high-government official being touted as the possible mastermind," she said.

United Nations review

Garafil's statements came following the United Nations Human Right Council's (UNHRC) review of the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, who represented the Philippines in the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, Switzerland, assured the UNHRC of a "thriving, vibrant and participative democrative space" in the country.

The Philippine government does not and will not tolerate impunity and human rights abuses, Remulla told the UN panel.

The Philippines has accepted and implemented 103 out of the 257 recommendations from the third cycle of the UPR that include the implementation of the national agenda on human rights since the third cycle of the UPR in 2017 under the four pillars of justice and law enforcement reforms; investments in economic, social and cultural rights; constructive and open engagement with the international community; and protection of vulnerable groups.

Remulla stressed strengthening national accountability mechanisms following the directive of the President to embark on “comprehensive, transformational reforms across all five pillars of our justice system.”

“These are game-changing reforms aimed at redefining the Philippines’ legal culture in order for us to deliver real justice in real time, which we owe to the Filipino people,” Remulla said in a statement released Tuesday.

Remulla said the government won’t hesitate to take action when there is compelling evidence to do so and dispel the mistaken notion of a culture of impunity, he added.

“We will not tolerate the denial of justice nor any violation of human rights,” Remulla stressed.

Remulla likewise discussed with Morris Tidball-Binz, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution, on Sunday the next steps for the planned training program on the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death for authorities, with the participation of the Commission on Human Rights and other stakeholders.

Remulla shared that the Philippines hosts Rohingya refugees, providing them free education through the Complementary Pathway program, and is in discussions with partners, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and the United States, on the possibility of the country temporarily hosting other persons at risk.

Also part of the Philippine delegation are Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the UN Office at Geneva Evan Garcia, DOJ Undersecretaries Jesse Andres and Raul Vasquez, Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat Undersecretary Severo Catura, and other officials from the Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs.

Active participant

The UPR involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN member-states and provides an opportunity for all states to present their actions to improve the human rights situation.

The Philippines is with 13 other states -- Algeria, Bahrain, Brazil, Ecuador, Finland, India, Indonesia, Morocco, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Tunisia and the United Kingdom –- during the 41st Session of the UPR Working Group that will end Nov. 18.

The Philippines also participated in the UPR in 2008, 2012 and 2017. 

In a meeting with the UN Resident Coordinator to the Philippines Gustavo Gonzales in June, Marcos vowed to uphold and protect human rights in the Philippines. (PNA)