UN Council urges government to address Duterte administration's human rights issues

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 15) — The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has urged the Marcos administration to address the alleged extrajudicial killings and other human rights issues that occurred under former President Rodrigo Duterte’s leadership.

The UNHRC issued recommendations during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday. UPR aims to evaluate a nation's human rights performance.

Several member-states called on the Philippine government to solve the cases of killings and to implement action to protect and promote human rights.

On the anti-illegal drugs campaign, France urged the Marcos administration to take the necessary steps to effectively address the impunity of those who carry out summary executions while Canada said effective prosecution is a must for victims to obtain justice.

Belgium recommended immediate action on the killings of journalists.

Ireland said it is still worried about allegations of murders and forced disappearances.

“We also regret that since the last Universal Periodic Review, the Philippines has withdrawn from the ICC. We remind the Philippines of its obligation to cooperate with the prosecutor's ongoing investigation into alleged international crimes commission and ensure access to justice to victims,” Ireland’s representative said.

China, meanwhile, said it supports the Philippines’ push to develop its economy and commended the country’s achievement in protecting and promoting human rights.

Gov’t vows action

Justice Secretary and Philippine representative Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla, in his speech addressing the council, said the country has “a thriving, vibrant and participative democratic space.”

“The government does not hesitate to take action when there is compelling evidence to do so. We will leave no one behind,” Remulla said.

“We will dispel the mistaken notion that there is a culture of impunity in our country. We will not tolerate the denial of justice nor, and violation of human rights,” he added.

According to Remulla, the Philippines has accepted and implemented 103 out of 257 recommendations by the UNHRC during the last UPR conducted in 2017, a year into the Duterte administration.

He said the accepted recommendations focused on the scope of international obligations and human rights mechanisms, right to life, liberty and security of persons, administration of justice and the rule of law, right to work under just and favorable conditions, and the right to an adequate standard of living among others.

Remulla also eased concerns that the death penalty might be reinstated, saying President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. “is not inclined to restore the death penalty anytime in his term in office.”

In a separate statement on Tuesday, the Office of the Press Secretary also vowed that the Marcos administration remains committed to protecting human rights, citing accomplishments and reforms in the country’s judicial system.

PH told: Follow recommendations

Human rights organization Amnesty International, however, called on the Philippine government to support and implement the recommendations to “prove it is serious” in the bid to improve the human rights situation in the country.

Amnesty took note of the current administration’s promises, but said that none of the measures “produced tangible results.”

“To [e]nsure that these statements are more than just words to placate the international community, Amnesty International calls on the government to make clear its support for the recommendations,” it said.

“Supporting and implementing recommendations that would end grave human rights violations is critical to ensuring the international credibility of the new government as well as restoring respect for human rights in the Philippines,” Amnesty added.