Palace official defends PH’s human rights record

By Genalyn Kabiling

The Philippines is “not a perfect state” with its flaws but has its fair share of success stories on protecting and upholding human rights, according to a Palace official.

Severo Catura, Undersecretary and Executive Director of the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat, has defended the government’s human rights record after the United Nations human rights chief Michele Bachelet frowned on alleged abuses like those attributed to the government’s ant-drug campaign.

“Let’s just say that all efforts are works in progress. Kasi iba rin ‘yun sa leadership, iba yung approach doon at iba rin doon sa general membership. Kung titingnan natin sa general membership [Because the approach towards the leadership is different from the general membership. If we look at the general membership], the mere fact we were elected to a fifth term, it speaks highly of what we are doing,” Catura said during a Palace press briefing, referring to the country’s recent election to another term in the UN Human Rights Council.

Severo Catura, Undersecretary and Executive Director of the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (SCREENSHOT / RTVM / FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)
Severo Catura, Undersecretary and Executive Director of the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (SCREENSHOT / RTVM / FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Of course we are not a perfect state. Kahit ano naman sinasabi na mayroon mga flaws but then again there are success stories na pwedeng i-highlight so mas malawak ang pagtingin [There are flaws but then again there are success stories that can be highlighted to promote understanding],” he added.

Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, earlier said the Philippines’
anti-drug policies and its lack of respect for rule of law and international standards should not be considered a model by any country.

The former president of Chile, in her recent speech at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, called on the Philippines to adopt “a public health approach and harmless initiatives that comply with human rights standards.”

After Bachelet’s comments, Catura acknowledged there was a need to step up the government’s information campaign about its efforts to promote human rights to enlighten the UN leadership.

“The mere fact she has been able to utter that compels us to push for information campaign na dapat makarating sa kanya [to reach her]. There’s a different dynamic surrounding the president sa human rights council. It’s a totally different approach that we should try to consider later on,” he said.

He made the remark after the Philippine delegation highlighted the fruitful trip to Europe to clarify issues on involuntary disappearances, foreign funding of communist terrorists, among others. The government’s human rights record was also tackled in the meeting with UN representatives.

Catura earlier said the country stands for democracy and respect for the dignity of every human being. “It is the state’s first and defining responsibility to protect its people against violations; by its own agents and more so by the lawless,” he said during the human rights council session in Geneva last month.

But Catura said the government’s efforts have been challenged by “false narratives” by terrorist front groups masquerading as non-government organizations and human rights defenders.

“We have seen the extent in which certain mechanisms in the UN and in the EU are being used as platform to advance certain agendas, especially of critics to this administration,” he told Palace reporters.

“The mission was as I said was to preserve the integrity of the information, but it is actually to qualify the extent by which the human rights narrative in our country has been so muddled,” he added.

 
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