By Camille A. Aguinaldo, Reporter
UNITED NATIONS (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet flagged the Philippine government’s campaign against illegal drugs on Wednesday, saying that its policies “should not be considered a model by any country.”
The UN official made the statement during the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on Mar. 6. Ms. Bachelet, a former political prisoner before she became president of Chile for two terms, cited the Philippines as among the countries over which the UN has an “increasing concern” due to its human rights situation.
“People who have fallen into the trap of drug reliance need help to rebuild their lives; drug policies should not be more of a threat to their lives than the drugs they are abusing. I encourage the Philippines to adopt a public health approach, and harm reduction initiatives that comply with human rights standards,” Ms. Bachelet said.
“The drug policies in place in the Philippines, and its lack of respect for rule of law and international standards, should not be considered a model by any country,” she later added.
Sought for comment, Malacañang said on Thursday that the figures Ms. Bachelet was citing on the number of drug-related deaths at 27,000 was wrong.
“The problem with that statement coming from that UN official is that… she relies on what she receives (as) information coming from the critics and the detractors of the administration. And we have been saying that this information is wrong. Like, for instance, when she claims that there were 27,000 deaths, the official count is only 5,000,” presidential spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said during a Palace briefing.
Ms. Bachelet also said UN Special Rapporteurs as well as opposition politicians, human rights defenders, and journalists are being threatened in the Philippines.
UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions Agnes Callamard also urged Philippine authorities to “respond effectively to the repeated denunciations of the situation on the country” following Ms. Bachelet’s statement.
“Such responses should include independent and impartial investigations into the thousands of killings they (Philippine authorities) have themselves attributed to the Philippines Police and Security Forces. The continuing absence of effective investigations amount to separate violations of the right to life,” Ms. Callamard said in her Facebook post on Wednesday.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also raised concerns over the bill seeking to lower the criminal age of responsibility to 12 years old from the present 15. The proposed measure bagged third reading approval in the House of Representatives on Jan. 28, while its counterpart version in the Senate remained pending on second reading.
“I also note that Special Rapporteurs of this Council have been subjected to threats; and opposition politicians, human rights defenders and journalists have been threatened, attacked and jailed. And I am extremely concerned by Congress consideration of measures to reintroduce the death penalty for drug related crimes, and reduce the age of criminal responsibility from 15, to 12 — or even 9 — years old,” Ms. Bachelet said.
The UN Human Rights Council opened its 40th session on Feb. 25. The Council is expected to review over 120 reports presented by human rights groups and experts and to take action on decisions and resolutions before it concludes session on Mar. 22.