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Church leaders urge Manila to comply with UN rights probe

Philippines hints at withdrawing from UNHRC following resolution to investigate drug war killings

ucanews.com reporter, Manila

ucanews.com reporter, Manila

Published: July 15, 2019 09:08 AM GMT

Updated: July 15, 2019 09:11 AM GMT

Church leaders urge Manila to comply with UN rights probe

Families of Philippine drug war victims call for an independent investigation into the killings in the Philippines during a demonstration in Manila on July 9. (Photo by Basilio Sepe)

Church leaders in Manila have called on the Philippine government to respect a U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution to investigate alleged human rights abuses.

A Catholic bishop said that if the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has nothing to hide, then it should allow the rights body to come and look into the situation.

"If the government considers itself above board in its drug war, it should allow itself to be investigated by an outside entity," Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said. "If it does not, it has something dirty to hide." 

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said the government "must respect or obey the U.N. resolution," adding that the Philippines has become "notorious for extrajudicial killings."

"There are thousands of testimonies regarding deaths without the benefit of judicial process," he said.

The Philippines hinted at a possible withdrawal from the UNHRC following adoption of the resolution to look into Duterte's war on drugs.

The council adopted the resolution initiated by Iceland on July 11 by a vote of 18 countries in favor and 14 against, with 15 abstentions.

"Iceland took the place [in the UNHRC] of the [United States] after it withdrew from the Human Rights Council. I think we need to follow America more," said Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on his Twitter account.

The US withdrew from the UNHRC in June 2018 in protest against what it perceived as entrenched bias against Israel and a willingness to allow notorious human rights abusers to become members.

Last year the Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute, the treaty that set up the International Criminal Court.
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"The temptation is strong to walk away ... But the Philippines must remain true to the cause of human rights," Locsin said last week.

Philippine authorities have admitted that up to 6,600 people have been killed in the government's crackdown on illegal drugs since 2016 when Duterte came to power.

Human rights groups, however, noted that there are more than 27,000 drug-related killings that are filed by police as "homicides under investigation."

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines criticized the government for rejecting the resolution.

"The government should respect and abide by internationally recognized bodies and mechanisms," it said in a statement.

The resolution "urges the government of the Philippines to take all necessary measures to prevent extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances" and "carry out impartial investigations."

The coalition also called on the government to hold perpetrators accountable "in accordance with international norms and standards including those on due process and the rule of law."

In 2018, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' annual report to the UNHRC placed the Philippines on a list of states that intimidate and retaliate against human rights defenders.

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