PH refuses to fully implement U.N. human rights recommendations

Pia Ranada
The Duterte administration 'fully rejects' findings of the UN human rights office that government actions are shrinking civic space for legitimate dissent and leading to serious abuses

FIGHTING ABUSE. Protesters gather inside the University of the Philippines campus on June 4, 2020, to protest the passing of the anti-terrorism bill. Photo by Lisa Marie David/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte administration said it can’t fully implement United Nations (UN) recommendations intended to improve the government’s human rights record, as it soundly rejected conclusions of a UN report.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, in a statement on Saturday, June 6, responded to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN-OHCHR) report.

“The Philippine Government notes the recommendations made by the OHCHR, but cannot commit to their full implementation given the faulty conclusions on which they were premised,” said Roque.

The report concluded that there were “serious human rights violations” under the Duterte administration reinforced by “pervasive and deeply damaging” rhetoric by high-level officials.

It also found there was little to no accountability for the deaths of thousands in Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs. Threats against progressive groups, activists, and journalists, in the name of national security, is shrinking space for legitimate dissent, added the report.

Another explosive finding of the report was evidence of police planting guns in anti-drug operations, casting doubt on claims of the government that suspects “fought back” and thus had to be shot down.

The Duterte government “firmly rejects” these findings, said Roque.

What recommendations? The UN human rights office urged the Duterte government to fix abuses of the drug war by abolishing drug watch lists, stopping deadly anti-drug operations and arbitrary detentions, and other violence against suspected drug personalities. 

It called for “independent, impartial, credible investigations” into violations and the creation of a system for publishing data on reports of extrajudicial killings.

While there have been a few examples of abusive cops criminally charged with murdering drug suspects, a majority of cases remain unresolved. In many cases, erring cops face mere administrative charges. 

Despite this, Roque claimed the Philippines’ legal system is working to protect victims of abuses under the Duterte administration.

“We maintain that the rule of law is upheld in the Philippines and any offenses committed by law-enforcement or otherwise will be dealt with in accordance with due process,” he said.

He further insisted that the autonomy of the judiciary “is respected by the Duterte administration.”

However, Duterte and his allies have publicly attacked a Supreme Court chief justice. Maria Lourdes Sereno was eventually ousted with the help of Solicitor General Jose Calida, a key ally of the President’s. The Supreme Court is now packed with Duterte appointees. –


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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at