By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
MALACAÑANG expressed confidence that the call by the special rapporteurs of the United Nations (UN) for an independent investigation into alleged human rights violations in the Philippines will have no impact on the country’s membership in the international body.
There will be “no” impact even if the UN body acts on this call, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo told BusinessWorld in an ambush interview last Monday.
Asked what the Philippines will do in case the investigation pushes through, the spokesman said: “Wala (Nothing).”
The Philippines is a signatory to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
“They can do their worst,” he added, “Wala ‘yan. Walang maniniwala d’yan (That’s nothing. No one will believe that).”
Last Friday, 11 UN Special Rapporteurs called on the UN Human Rights Council to conduct an independent investigation into the alleged rights violations in the Philippines.
In a statement issued from Geneva and posted on the official Website of the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, they said: “Given the scale and seriousness of the reported human rights violations, we call on the Human Rights Council to establish an independent investigation into the human rights violations in the Philippines.”
The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups, as explained on the statement’s footnote, “are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council… Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work.”
“Has the UN body responded to it? Wala pa naman eh (They haven’t yet),” the spokesman said.
The experts said they have recorded “a staggering number of unlawful deaths and police killings in the context of the so-called war on drugs, as well as killings of human rights defenders.”
They also noted that only “very few independent and effective investigations have taken place.”
University of the Philippines Political Science professor Maria Ela L. Atienza, in an email to BusinessWorld last Sunday when sought for comment on the matter, said: “The Philippines, while not having a perfect record in the area of human rights, used to be one of the leading and respected voices from the developing world in the UN in the areas of human rights, women’s rights, and environmental issues, including climate change.”
However, she added, this has “changed” when Mr. Duterte came to power in 2016 and launched his war against illegal drugs.
“The government, including all secretaries appointed in the Department of Foreign Affairs, has defended the war on drugs,” Ms. Atienza said.
She also noted that the President has “lambasted the UN and human rights advocates and accused them of interfering in the nation’s internal affairs.”