Two UN officials urge PH to share best practices to project right image

By Genalyn Kabiling

A United Nations official has urged the Philippine government to fight back the “false information” spread by critics after the country earned praises for its accomplishments in socioeconomic development and other human rights fronts.

Mr. Saad Alfarargi, OHCHR Special Rapporteur on the right to development (OHCHR/Pierre Albouy) Mr. Saad Alfarargi, OHCHR Special Rapporteur on the right to development (OHCHR/Pierre Albouy)

UN Special Rapporteur on the right to development Saad Alfarargi of Egypt has reportedly said the Philippines could share its “best practices” and participate in international forums to project its “right image.”

The UN rights expert made the statement on the sidelines of the 42nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Special Rapporteur on the right to development Saad Alfarargi of Egypt lauded the socio-economic achievements in the Philippines that uplift the dignity of Filipinos, even as he emphasized that development is a ‘pivot’ in human rights promotion, protection, and fulfillment by the State,” Undersecretary Severo Catura of the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat said in a statement.

“He encouraged the Philippines to work hard in refuting the false news being perpetuated by rabid critiques as ‘your country has many best practices to share’,” Catura said.

“As these fake news are being spread by enemies of the Philippine government, Alfarargi encouraged the Philippines to ‘fight back’ against this false information, and to continue actively participating in international and regional human rights discussions ‘to have the right image that it wants to project’,” he added.

UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order Livingstone Sewanyana of Uganda agreed that the challenge for the Philippines was to “demystify” the negative information alleged spread by critics.

Sewanyana, who was briefed on the threats posed by terrorism and communist insurgency, suggested that the Philippines should highlight the positive updates on efforts to address such threats, according to Catura.

Alfarargi and Sewanyana were among the UN special rapporteurs and other independent experts who met with the Philippine delegation-led by Catura on the sidelines during the Geneva meeting.

Catura said there was "sad irony" at the UN summit in Geneva, citing that the country has been hailed for "achievements in several crucial human rights fronts" but some groups have merely rehashed the rights abuses against the government.

"While a handful of Filipino-led non-government organizations have once again taken to vilifying the Philippines at the ongoing 42nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, with rehashed allegations of human rights violations by the Duterte administration, no less than key independent experts and special rapporteurs of the UN are looking positively at the Philippines," he said.

He said Alfarargi has cited the responsiveness of the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 to bring a comfortable and secure life for the majority of Filipinos.

The UN expert also "expressed approval" for the effective implementation  of the Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development 1995-2025; the development perspectives of the Philippines’ magna cartas of women and of persons with disabilities, and the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997; the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program; the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan 2011-2028; and the Comprehensive Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program, according to Catura.

Apart from development aspects, the Philippines drew praises from UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation Leo Heller of Brazil for the “very good” initiatives to ensure water and sanitation for Filipinos.

“Heller lauded the efforts of the Philippines, through the Department of Health and in cooperation with partner agencies, in launching a handbook that contains new guidelines to curb the number of gastroenteritis cases, which cost the government P2 billion pesos annually,” Catura said.

Rosa Kornfeld-Matte of Chile, UN independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, has also lauded the Duterte administration for advancing the rights of the country’s senior citizens.

The rights expert cited that the Philippines' potential as a global champion for older persons’ rights, according to Catura.

UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation, and a guarantee of non-recurrence Fabian Salvioli of Argentina, meantime, welcomed the “very good news” the government's extension of the release and payment of claims of martial law victims until the end of the year.

"Salvioli also expressed satisfaction that the Ampatuan massacre case is nearing its resolution under the Duterte administration," Catura said.

He said UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery Urmila Bhoola of South Africa deemed that the country “can play a very key role in Southeast Asia to encourage other countries to take positive steps in addressing contemporary forms of slavery."

"She continued that ‘other countries stand to learn from the Philippines,’ citing efforts of the Philippines to protect overseas Filipino workers from falling victim to modern-day slavery,” Catura said.

He said the Philippine government is inspired by the words of approval and encouragement from the UN rights experts, to continue to uplift the lives of Filipinos.

"In the process, it also enriches the general public’s understanding that human rights cover a wide range of freedoms and guarantees that uplift human dignity," he said.

“We welcome the opportunity to be deemed as champion in the vast field of human rights advocacy not only in the Southeast Asian region but in the world as well. And this administration under President Duterte shall deliver,” he added.