By Camille A. Aguinaldo
THE PHILIPPINES is “on track” in providing reforms to prevent the country from becoming a “narco-state” while remaining committed to the rule of law and human rights, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano told world leaders at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York last Saturday.
“The Philippines, under the leadership of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, is one with the United Nations in being uncompromising on the issues of rule of law, just and equitable peace that leads to order, development and prosperity, and the protection of each and every human beings’ rights,” he said in his speech.
“As a sovereign and democratic country led by a duly elected President, we are on track in salvaging our deteriorating country from becoming a narco-state or a state held hostage by the rich and powerful who ignored the plight of the poor, powerless and marginalized. Or worse both,” he added.
It was the second time Mr. Cayetano addressed the UN General Assembly on the Philippine campaign against illegal drugs, as the international community has been critical of the country’s human rights situation in connection with the drug war.
Mr. Cayetano said the Philippines will always choose to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens and law enforcers over the rights of drug lords and criminals who, he said, seek to kill and destroy.
“Wouldn’t you do the same? Which country, which leader wouldn’t do the same and protect your citizens and protect your law enforcers?” he said.
He also clarified that the Philippine government’s statements should not be interpreted as disregarding its international human rights obligations.
“We may somehow and sometimes differ in how we express ourselves yet this should not be interpreted as turning our backs on the universal declaration on human rights,” Mr. Cayetano said.
“On the contrary, the Philippines and President Duterte are instituting all these reforms to be able to protect the rights of every single Filipino and every single human being living in the Philippines,” he added.
Mr. Cayetano also called on the UN member-states to put the interests of the global community above their national interests.
Aside from the issue on the war on drugs, Mr. Cayetano also raised the issue on migration and regarded the international agreement called the Global Compact on Migration “a huge step in the right direction” for the protection and better treatment of migrants, including the 10 million Filipinos living overseas.
Here at home, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo said on Sunday: “The President will not stop at continuing his war against illegal drugs, a duty imposed on him by the Constitution. Extra-judicial killings are the result of members of the drug syndicates killing each other due to fraud in their dealings as well as a means of protecting and avenging themselves from whistle blowers. The fact that policemen are killed in anti-drug operations shows that the drug lords and pushers use violence in resisting arrest as well as putting the lives of the arresting officers in peril, hence their application of lawful self defense.” — with Arjay L. Balinbin