THE UNITED Nations Human Rights Council dealt victims of human rights violations in the Philippines a serious blow by failing to pass a resolution that would ensure continued scrutiny of the country’s rights situation, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

“The council will end its 51st session in Geneva on Oct. 7 without taking action on the Philippines, despite dire expressions of concern from the UN human rights office, civil society organizations and families of victims of abuses,” the global watchdog said in an e-mailed statement.

The 2020 Human Rights Council resolution on the Philippines required the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor and report on the Philippine rights situation through 2022.

A September report by the high commissioner’s office highlighted prevailing rights violations and recommended continued monitoring and reporting to the council.

But council member states and donor countries that supported the 2020 resolution and the ensuing Philippine-UN Joint Program did not press for a 2022 resolution, Human Rights Watch said.

“The UN Human Rights Council’s failure to act on the Philippines is devastating for both the victims of human rights abuses and civil society groups that seek to uphold basic rights,” said Lucy McKernan, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch.

“The end to council scrutiny of the Philippines reflects especially poorly on the European and other concerned governments, led by Iceland, that had banded together in 2020 to support a resolution and the UN Joint Program that sought real improvements on the ground,” she added.

The program was designed to institutionalize human rights reforms in the Philippines in the face of “catastrophic rights abuses” during the war on drugs started by then President Rodrigo R. Duterte in 2016.

“Instead of creating a commission of inquiry to investigate the thousands of extrajudicial killings, the Human Rights Council in 2020 settled on providing the Philippines ‘technical cooperation’ and ‘capacity building’ that, while valuable, did not advance accountability for grave crimes,” Human Rights Watch said.

The three-year program has not gotten beyond its preliminary phase, facing unnecessary obstacles from the Philippine government, including attempts to undermine civil society participation, it said. Without a commitment to the program from the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. and the political backing offered by a Human Rights Council resolution, the UN Joint Program is unlikely to make much progress, it added.

“Since Marcos took office on June 30, there has been no letup in drug war killings or other human rights violations,” the watchdog said. The Third World Studies Center of the University of the Philippines has reported 90 drug-related deaths under the new government.

On Oct. 3, unidentified gunmen killed radio journalist Percival Mabasa, in Las Pinas City near the Philippine capital. He was the second journalist killed since Mr. Marcos became president.

But Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla said the Philippines is exerting efforts to improve its human rights situation.

During a meeting with Nada Al-Nashif, the United Nations (UN) Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva on Tuesday, the Justice chief said the Southeast Asian nation would continue to engage constructively with the UN and international community, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on its website.

The Justice chief underscored progress in state efforts to strengthen domestic human rights mechanisms, it said. The UN official recognized government efforts to enhance accountability and ensure a human rights-based approach to drug control, it added.

Mr. Remulla cited state efforts to decongest jails with the release last month of more than 350 inmates including the sick and elderly.

With 215,000 prisoners nationwide, Philippine jails and prisons are overfilled more than five times their official capacity, making it the most overcrowded prison system in the world, according to the World Prison Brief. Many of the jails in the country fail to meet the minimum United Nations standards given inadequate food, poor nutrition and unsanitary conditions, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Last month, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report saying the Philippine probe into human rights violations in connection with its deadly drug war lacked transparency.

“Transparency and public scrutiny in investigative processes and outcomes remain a challenge,” it said in a 16-page report dated Sept. 6. 

Philippine Solicitor General Menardo I. Guevarra said last week the government would pursue legal remedies to block an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

He earlier told the Hague-based tribunal that the alleged murders of drug suspects in police raids were not crimes against humanity because these were not “attacks against the civilian population.” — Norman P. Aquino and John Victor D. Ordoñez