CHR to cooperate in UN rights probe

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 17) — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) vowed to cooperate with the UN’s review of the human rights situation in the Philippines, as the rest of the government continues to be resistant to the probe greenlighted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

CHR Commissioner Gwen Pimentel-Gana told CNN Philippines’ The Source that they will provide data they have gathered from their investigations into around 1,000 deaths related to the administration’s brutal drug war if it is asked for by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

However, Pimentel-Gana said they could not reveal the names of the victims unless they are granted permission by the victims' families.

Pimentel-Gana said the CHR’s conducts its own field investigations, interviews the families of the victims and references reports by civil society organizations in its own investigations into drug war deaths.

She added that they have tried obtaining complete data about drug war deaths from the Philippine National Police (PNP), but the information have supposedly been withheld from the CHR.

“They do withhold information. Because if they were really sincere and transparent in their relationship and wanting to cooperate with the CHR, they should have done [a] long time ago [and] gave us what we requested,” Pimentel-Gana said.

In 2017, the PNP granted the CHR access to spot reports on drug killings, but not the entire case folders of crimes. The police said this is to ensure no judicial and investigative protocols and laws are violated.

Since then, the CHR has been pressing the PNP for data on the drug war and the agency’s supposed adherence to human rights.

Pimentel-Gana said the government has more to gain if they begin opening up to the drug war being probed as this will give the government a chance to air its side and even correct the “false information” supposedly fed to other countries about the drug war.

“I think it is good for government because it will allow them to present or say their side, what’s happening really in accordance to how they think things are going in the human rights aspect,” she said.

She added, “Let’s show us the true facts. What’s the truth here? If you’re holding something that the world should know, then go show the world that this is reality. You know, it can always be proven otherwise.”

But the government is still unwilling to cooperate in the UN rights probe, with Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo saying that investigators from the international body would not be allowed entry into the Philippines.

But Pimentel-Gana said the probe can still push through even if investigators are not allowed into the country.

Part of the UN rights probe is for human rights officers based in Bangkok, Thailand to establish contact with sources within and outside the Philippines and gather “first-hand and up-to-date" information on the country's situation.

Information gathering may require the use of a remote fact-finding methodology – including interviews, data analysis, statistical report, and open source material – "in case of absence of access to the country."

READ: What to expect from UN's review of Philippine drug war

The UNHRC adopted last week the resolution calling on the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to conduct a probe on the human rights situation in the Philippines with a slim majority of 18 votes, over 14 votes against and 15 abstentions.

President Rodrigo Duterte has gone as far as “seriously considering” cutting diplomatic ties with Iceland, the country that sponsored the resolution.

CNN Philippines Senior Digital Producer Eimor Santos contributed to this report.