A group of 39 countries, which includes Canada, has raised “serious concern” regarding the human rights situation in the Philippines amid the war on drugs by the government of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The group issued a joint statement on September 28 during the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council’s 36th Session in Geneva.
The group emphasized that the Philippines needs to investigate all killings, combat a climate of impunity, and protect human rights defenders.
Duterte took power in June 2016 and declared a war on drugs.
“We urge the government to pursue investigations of alleged human rights violations and abuses and to create a safe and secure environment for indigenous communities, journalists and HRDs,” said the statement read by Iceland’s representative to the Human Rights Council (HRC).
The HRC members’ statement also called upon the government to work with the UN and civil society organizations to “promote and protect human rights, including by welcoming a visit from the SR [Special Rapporteur] on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, without preconditions or limitations.”
The Philippines has invited UNSR Agnes Callamard to investigate extrajudicial killings, but only on the condition that can be personally interrogated by Duterte in a public debate.
Duterte has repeatedly cursed Callamard, calling her a “son of a bitch” and “stupid.”
In Washington, Philippine Foreign minister Alan Peter Cayetano told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the Philippines had “nothing to hide”, was open to an “independent and fair” investigation of its human rights situation.
Cayetano also thanked Washington for US$2 million in support of the drugs war.
Duterte has even said the police should kill his own son, Davao City’s Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, who stands accused of being involved with shipments of illicit drugs from China.
The Philippine government has denounced 39 mostly Western nations, including the US, which have urged it to end the drug war killings.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said Friday that its diplomats told the countries, which issued a joint statement in Geneva expressing serious concern over human rights conditions in the Philippines, “to respect Manila’s domestic processes.”
The government, through its diplomatic mission to the UN in Geneva, said it takes “grave exception to the sweeping and politicized statement” delivered by Iceland on behalf of the 39 countries.
“We urge the government of the Philippines to take all necessary measures to bring these killings to an end and cooperate with the international community to pursue appropriate investigations,” the countries said, citing the need for Manila to adhere to “universal principles of democratic accountability and the rule of law.”
A senior Filipino diplomat in Geneva, Maria Teresa Almojuela, said, “It is ironic that many of these states joining the statement are the very same states that are the sources of arms, bombs, machines and mercenaries that maim, kill and massacre thousands of people all over the world, not only during their colonial past, but even up to today.”
She said the Philippines seriously investigates documented allegations of human rights violations and has filed criminal complaints against abusive police officials.