MALACAÑANG ON Thursday lambasted United Nations Special Rapporteur (UNSR) Michel Forst for asking the Philippine government to “review and desist from employing counter-insurgency measures which result in extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, and human rights violations” in the country.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said Mr. Forst’S call is “reckless and irresponsible.”
“It not only demeans the integrity of the UNSR system but the entire UN mechanism itself,” he said.
Mr. Forst released last Wednesday, Dec. 18, a report on the situation of human rights defenders (HRDs) in 140 countries.
In the Philippines, his report said, “the stigmatization, defamation, judicial harassment, arbitrary arrest and criminalization of defenders is a key area of concern.”
“It has been reported that human rights defenders are subject to smear campaigns and online harassment. Government officials have tried to connect human rights defenders with the drug trade, communist groups, or terrorist groups,” he explained.
Mr. Panelo, on the other hand, countered, “We are fed up with this practice of using the UN as a platform to parrot baseless criticisms of local interest groups who are supported by resentful politicians belonging to the opposition. For too long has the UN been used by these detractors as a tool for vilification. UNSRs should be less gullible…”
“If Mr. Forst only checked his facts first, he would have known that organizations presenting themselves as so-called human rights defenders never had it so good under the Duterte administration,” the spokesman said.
He also said the Palace is challenging the local groups “that have been feeding Mr. Forst with false information to submit their alleged cases of violations against their members to proper authorities such as the Inter-Agency Committee under Administrative Order 35 (s.2012) which is charged with handling cases of extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances and other grave violations of the right to life and liberty.”
“Unless they can properly do so, we stand by our firm admonition of these groups to refrain from making a fool of these UNSRs, a mockery of the UN, as well as using their allegations as leverage to secure financial resources from overtrusting funding institutions,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is seeking clarification into the report, which it pointed out was not published by the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (UN OHCHR) and was only made available in Mr. Forst’s personal website.
In any case, the DFA stressed that the Philippine government upholds the rule of law.
“As we are currently seeking clarification on the nature of report of the Special Rapporteur to enable us to respond more properly, we would like to reiterate the full commitment of the Philippine Government to upholding the rule of law and ensuring that human rights violations are properly investigated, including those allegedly committed by state actors, to make the perpetrators accountable,” the DFA said.
Mr. Forst shared his findings on Twitter, noting that the world report was only available on his website since UN OHCHR “did not accept to publish it.” — Arjay L. Balinbin and Camille A. Aguinaldo