By Roy Mabasa and Hannah Torregoza
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. is mulling the possibility of withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNCHR) to follow what the United States did in June last year.
Locsin floated the idea in response to a tweet by a netizen asking how the Philippine representation in Iceland reacted following the approval of a UNCHR resolution pushing for a probe on the extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration’s war on drugs campaign.
“No embassy in Iceland. Nor does Iceland have an embassy here. Iceland took the place of the US after it withdrew from the Human Rights Council. I think we need to follow America more,” Locsin said in a Twitter post on Saturday.
In June 2018, the US announced its withdrawal from the UN’s top human rights body, a move that was heavily criticized by various rights groups and even foreign leaders.
Then US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley accused the UN human rights body of “chronic bias” against Israel.
“We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights,” the former US diplomat said during her announcement of Washington’s withdrawal from the UN rights body.
It may be recalled that in October, 2018, the Philippines strongly lobbied and won a seat at the UNHRC, garnering 165 votes out of 192 cast by member-states.
Locsin, then the Philippine representative to the UN Mission in New York, led the country in campaigning for a seat it earnestly sought amid calls to investigate thousands of death related to Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.
The Philippines is currently serving a three-year term in the 47-member Council based in Switzerland from 2019 to 2021.
UNHRC resolution downplayed
Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Sunday downplayed the move of the UNHRC to adopt a resolution seeking a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the Philippines, noting that it even failed to get the approval of the majority of all its members.
Lacson noted that in the Iceland-led resolution, 18 countries voted but 14 rejected it and 15 abstained.
Had the resolution been overwhelmingly adopted, the senator said there could be intense pressure for the Philippines.
“But out of 47, only 18 countries signed, 14 did not, and 15 abstained. So there is no strong pressure and we can show that we can manage whatever abuses are happening,” Lacson said.
“Having said that, I think the best way we can do is to come up with a comprehensive report, what was really the lowdown, and what happened to our drug war and we can give it to them,” he said.
But to allow the UNHRC to formally launch an investigation would be like “a slap in the face.”
“We’re being treated like kids who do not know what they are doing. If they ask for a report, what’s next? If they are not satisfied with our report, are they going to investigate like what other European countries are calling for and those here with us who support it,” he asked.
He said the government should leave it up to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to make the report. The report should also contain the actions taken by authorities to address the issue.
“We’re not just supposed to talk about numbers or figures, we should also find out the remedial or corrective measures that authorities are doing,” he pointed out.
Nevertheless, Lacson said the government should not ignore the UNHRC resolution.
“We should not ignore it because that is still a democratic vote. Even if it was just 18 out of 47, that is still a democratic vote. At the end of the day, that’s democracy,” the lawmaker said.
“But what I am saying is that the UNHRC should make it clear what is the purpose of the resolution. Because it seems that if they are not satisfied with the findings, they will launch another investigation, which I believe is inappropriate,” he said.
“We should remember that we have a national dignity that is far more important than anything else,” Lacson stressed.