‘Don’t dictate’: Angara tells UN to respect PH sovereignty amid call for human rights probe

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 10) — Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara called on the United Nations to respect the Philippines’ sovereignty amid a call from 11 UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) experts for the international body to probe the “sharp deterioration” of human rights in the country.

“They want to see progress but through domestic government. So give our institutions a chance. Kung may pagkukulang, sabihan niyo kami anong kailangan gawin pero don’t dictate on us sana,” Angara told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Monday.

[Translation: They want to see progress but through domestic government. So give our institutions a chance. If there are lapses, tell us what we need to do, but please don’t dictate on us.]

He said that while some people say that the human rights situation in the country has deteriorated, the people’s well-being has become better.

“People also say they feel safer, they feel safer going home at night. So that’s also a human right, ‘yung well-being. So maybe it’s striking the right balance. That should be the goal,” Angara said.

He added that the UNHRC can conduct a probe as long as it respects “the framework of our own sovereignty.”

The Philippines is a member of the UNHRC and was granted a fresh three-year term last year.

The statements of Angara, who mounted a successful senatorial campaign under administration tickets, closely echo Malacañang’s reaction to the UN experts’ call for a probe, which it called an “outrageous interference on Philippine sovereignty.”

The Palace also dismissed their plea, saying it is based on “false information.” It also said that violations in protocols in the drug war are strictly dealt with and that the judiciary ensures that the law is applied equally to all.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) also mirrored Malacañang’s statement, saying it is "another attempt by foreign bodies to meddle into purely national affairs."

Asked if they will cooperate with the possible investigation, PNP chief P/Gen. Oscar Albayalde said foreign investigating bodies should coordinate with the Office of the Solicitor General first.

But opposition Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan said the Philippines has an obligation and responsibility as a member of the UN to enforce international treaties like the UN Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Meanwhile, detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima said that President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies continue to turn a blind eye to alleged human rights violations.

“Thousands of Filipino lives were unjustly taken, and the President and his allies remain unperturbed. Worse, they always readily dismiss efforts by international forces to solve and put an end into the extrajudicial killings in the country as another political interference, if not destabilization plot,” said De Lima, who is detained on what she calls trumped up drug charges.

In a joint statement last Friday, UN experts called for an independent investigation into alleged human rights violations in the Philippines, including deaths in the context of the drug war, killings of human rights activists, threats to journalism and the allegedly undermined independence of the judiciary.

The experts, including special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard, said the government has shown no indication that it will fulfill their obligation to probe these cases and hold their perpetrators accountable.

Callamard and other human rights advocates have frequently received tongue lashings from Duterte, who insists on the necessity of his drug war which. Government data show over 5,000 drug suspects have been killed in anti-drug operations since Duterte became president in 2016.

The country's independent Commission on Human Rights estimates some 27,000 have died in the government's war against drugs.