PH delegation defends drug war at UN in Geneva

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Sen. Alan Cayetano co-leads the Philippine delegation to the UN in Switzerland.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 8) — The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has completed on Monday its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the situation in the Philippines after three hours of scrutiny in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Philippine delegation denied the existence of state-sponsored or extrajudicial killings of drug traffickers and criminals.

Sen. Alan Cayetano, co-head of the Philippine delegation, said critics of the administration have spread alternative facts, widely quoted by some local and foreign media outlets.

“Because some of the critics of the Duterte Administration, including our very own Commission on Human Rights (CHR), a senator and some local media changed the definition of extrajudicial killings (EJK) therefore deceiving the public and foreign media into believing that there is a sudden wave of state-sponsored extrajudicial killings in the Philippines,” the senator said.

Cayetano assured the UNHRC of the country’s commitment to uphold human rights.

He even invited state leaders to visit the country to see the real situation there.

“We are asking you to interview our people, to go to our communities, to visit the Philippines, and see for yourself the truth, the real numbers,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano’s co-leader, Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the drug problem in the Philippines was not a simple health issue — but a serious threat to the safety and security of the majority of Filipinos.

The Philippine delegation also tackled in a presentation various issues, such as human trafficking, women and children, and other socio-economic concerns.

The working group, composed of Switzerland, Paraguay, and Kenya will next meet with the Filipino delegation and talk about the recommendations from the dialogue.

Some of the recommendations by countries included investigating reports of extrajudicial killings, refraining from reimposing the death penalty and ensuring accountability in the anti-drug campaign.

The Philippines will respond to these recommendations and decide if it accepts, rejects, or put these under study.

The report will be distributed on May 10.

The UPR involves a regular study of the human rights records of all 193 UN member states. It was established when the Human Rights Council was created in March 2006 by the UN General Assembly to "undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfilment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States."

‘Hogwash’

Incumbent and former officials of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) disagree with Cayetano.

CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez Dumpit denied changing the definition of EJKs.

“We always anchor our statements and terms in accordance to international standards,” she said.

Former Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Etta Rosales called the government's claims as "hogwash.”

“I would appeal to the President [I hope] this will be a wakeup call and Sen. Cayetano who has actually come up with half-truths when he was explaining himself should come out and hindi naman niya pwedeng matago yan [he cannot conceal the truth],” Rosales said.

She believes the government is not serious when they invited the countries to visit the Philippines to investigate the drug campaign, citing the administration's negative reaction to UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard academic visit to the country last week. 

Read: Malacañang slams visit of UN rapporteur to PH

CNN Philippines' Anna Estanislao contributed to this report.