Philippines wins recognition for human rights record, pledges continued progress
The Philippines scored a big victory in Geneva Friday when the United Nations Human Rights Council overwhelmingly adopted Manila's human rights report card, a statement of the Department of Foreign Affairs said Saturday.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano welcomed the final adoption of the Third Philippine Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Report by the 47-member body, saying it affirms Manila's commitment to its human rights obligations.
"The final adoption of our UPR Report during the 36th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva demonstrates that the Philippines has nothing to hide with its human rights record," said Cayetano said in a statement from New York where he is attending the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly.
The UPR of the UN Human Rights Council is the world's principal peer review mechanism where member-states discuss their human rights policies and plans and exchange views on how to improve human rights through international cooperation. The process is transparent and member-states interact as sovereign equals.
"The Philippines will remain resolute in its respect for and protection of human rights as it strives to improve the lives and welfare of each and every Filipino by protecting them from the scourges of drugs and criminality," said Cayetano.
"The Philippines remains fully committed to meeting its human rights obligations in compliance with the Constitution and international human rights obligations," he said.
"The dignity of the Filipino people is uppermost among our priority concerns," Secretary Cayetano said as he expressed his appreciation to the other members of the government UPR team, particularly Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Undersecretary Severo Catura of the Presidential Commission on Human Rights.
The adoption is basically part of the UPR process where member-states confirm which recommendations to accept from those made when then Senator Cayetano presented the Philippine UPR report before the Council in Geneva in May.
The Philippine Mission to the United Nations in Geneva said the report was warmly welcomed by other ASEAN member-states Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar and Thailand, which all commended the country's human rights achievements.
The Philippine Mission said to the 2017 report is the third to be adopted by the council, which also adopted the Philippine UPR reports in 2008 and 2012.
"This shows the full engagement of the Philippines with the UN Human Rights Council as the most important
international human rights machinery," said Ambassador Evan Garcia, Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva.
Garcia pointed out after a careful review and inclusive consultation with inputs from various stakeholders, especially from representatives from the State’s executive, legislative, and judicial departments was done, the Philippines committed to accept 103 out of the 257 recommendations it received.
“The accepted recommendations mirrored the recommending States’ understanding of the current human rights situation in the Philippines, recognized and respected the State as currently implementing or having implemented them, and were supportive of the Philippines’ pursuit of human rights aimed at uplifting human dignity,” said Garcia.
The Philippines accepted recommendations that pertained to the sustainable protection of family and society in general, such as the preservation of the sanctity of family life, effective advocacy of economic and social rights through development, mitigation of the adverse effects of climate change, eradication of poverty, and improvements to access to health care and public education.
The Philippines also accepted those recommendations aimed at enhancing the current capacities of the country to protect the right to life, liberty and property through the rule of law and accessibility of victims to justice in pursuit of anti-abortion initiatives, eradication of all forms of slavery, counter-terrorism efforts, and the anti-illegal drugs campaign.
The rest of the recommendations that were fully accepted were those that would strengthen international cooperation with human rights mechanisms for the protection of the most vulnerable sectors in Philippine society and the formulation of the national human rights action plan.
Garcia explained that Philippines could only note the other 154 recommendations because the country cannot guarantee or commit at this time to their fruition given that the results of processes required to implement them are beyond the sole control of any of the branches of the government.
“This is specifically true for recommendations that pertain to legislative action, which would require consultative processes with stakeholders”, he said.
Garcia said the adoption was the result of the efforts of then Senator Cayetano and Guevara to explain to the council Philippine policies and practices, including those in connection with the campaign against illegal drugs.
Forty-two states are reviewed each year during three Working Group sessions dedicated to 14 States each. The third cycle of the UPR will cover all UN Member States and run until 2021.
The Philippines was one of the first 47 members of the then newly created HRC in 2006. The Philippines is serving its fourth term as member in the Human Rights Council. DMS