PH rejects over half of human rights recommendations of UN

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 23) — The Philippines rejected 154 of 257 recommendations by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) aimed at improving the country's human rights situation.

The recommendations are a result of the UNHRC's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines on May 8.

Read: PH delegation defends drug war at UN in Geneva

The UPR is periodic review of the human rights records of all UN member states.

In the September 19 response to the UNHRC's recommendations, the government said of the 154 recommendations, it cannot support 99 of these.

"The State cannot guarantee or commit to their fruition given that the results of processes required to implement them are beyond the sole control of any of the branches of government," it said. "This is specifically true for recommendations that pertain to legislative action, which would require consultative processes with stakeholders."

The government also said it cannot support the other 55 recommendations, as they were "sweeping, vague, and even contradictory."

"Full acceptance of these recommendations would denigrate the State's current serious efforts that already address the issues raised," it added.

Most of the recommendations that the Philippines rejected pertained to:

  1. Investigating alleged extrajudicial killings (EJKs)
  2. Stopping the reimposition of the death penalty
  3. Stopping the lowering of the age of criminal liability

However, the Philippines accepted the other 103 recommendations, including those on the development of a National Human Rights Framework and the protection of rights like health, education and favorable work conditions.

No EJKs

The Philippines reiterated that deaths as part of the government's bloody war on drugs are not EJKs.

"These are deaths arising from legitimate law enforcement operations or deaths that require further investigation following established rules of engagement by the country's law enforcers," the response said.

The UN has been highly critical of the Duterte administration's anti-criminality campaign.

On September 12, UN human rights chief Zei Ra'ad Al Hussein expressed grave concern over the spate of killings in the country, including the death of 17-year-old Grade 12 student Kian delos Santos in an August 16 police operation.

Read: UN rights commissioner ‘gravely concerned’ over PH killings

Meanwhile, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard has repeatedly slammed the war on drugs and expressed her intention to investigate alleged EJKs.

Related: Callamard calls for probe on all 'unlawful' deaths following Kian slay

However, the government set three conditions for Callamard to continue with her probe: Callamard must have a public debate with President Rodrigo Duterte before the media; Duterte must be allowed to ask her questions; and she has to take an oath.

Callamard rejected these conditions, telling CNN Philippines these were not consistent with the code of conduct for special rapporteurs.

Read: U.N. special rapporteur rejects government conditions

The Philippines likewise rejected UNHRC recommendations to allow Callamard's visit without conditions.

Related: UN rights review: PH must lift conditions on rapporteur probe

Push for death penalty, lowering age of criminal liability

Meanwhile, the Philippines said the UNHRC's concerns on reimposing the death penalty and lowering the age of criminal liability will be "subject to further deliberations in the Philippine Congress, which include comprehensive consultations with all stakeholders concerned, the outcome of which the State cannot influence."

In March 2017, the House of Representatives approved House Bill 4727, which reimposes the death penalty for drug-related offenses.

Read: House nods to restoration of Death Penalty on third and final reading

Meanwhile, the Senate version of the measure, which was filed on January 2017, remains pending.

The Philippines ceased using capital punishment in 1987.

In 1993, President Fidel Ramos reimposed the death penalty, which remained in force until President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abolished it in 2006.

Meanwhile, the House is still deliberating on proposals to lower the age of criminal liability from the current 15 years old, a measure that Duterte supports to prevent the youth from being used by criminal syndicates.

Related: Alvarez stands firm on lowering minimum age of criminal responsibility

Committed to human rights

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a Saturday statement that the Palace welcomes the UNHRC's final adoption of the Philippines' UPR Report.

"The adoption of the Philippine UPR Report in Geneva recognizes the human rights record of the Philippines and our country's commitment to human rights under the leadership of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte," he said.

"This likewise reaffirms our respect for the dignity of the Filipino people and the protection of the Filipino family as we strive for a better life in a society free of illegal drugs and other crimes," Abella added. 

The country's next UPR is scheduled on May 2022.