PH won't provide drug war docs if UNHRC report 'just fishing expedition'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Malacañang won't let the Philippines' security agencies provide documents about the government's campaign against illegal drugs to the United Nations (UN) rights body if it "feels" suspicious about the group's intentions.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said this on Monday, July 15, when asked if the Palace would let the Philippine National Police (PNP) hand over drug war documents to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to aid their crafting of a comprehensive report.

"If we feel that the question is legitimate, we will respond, but if the question is only designed to fish information that it will use, by the inquiring country, to embarrass this country, certainly we will not oblige," said Panelo during a Palace news briefing.

However, he said the Philippines may provide the UN government statistics on the drug war.

"If they ask us, 'How many deaths are there in connection with the drug operations?' then we will respond. Per PNP these are the figures," said Panelo.

Asked if they would also send data and documents to back these government figures, which have been questioned by various human rights groups and watchdogs, Panelo said the UNHRC would have to believe the statistics provided.

"They have to believe what this government tells them because this government does not lie. It behooves them to render respect to a sovereign state," he said.

The PNP pegs the number of deaths in anti-drug operations at over 5,000. But human rights groups, including Amnesty International, say the deaths have reached some 27,000.

Panelo said that while the UNHRC adopted the Iceland-drafted resolution for action on President Rodrigo Duterte's drug crackdown, the Philippines can still choose to participate or not in aiding the investigation, as a sovereign nation.

But the Philippines is also a member of the UN and sits in the UNHRC.

"It is discretionary on the part of a sovereign government to respond or not respond to anything related to the affairs of this government," said Panelo.

Reporters also asked the spokesman if the Palace did not see the UN report as the perfect opportunity to prove to the international community that there are no human rights violations committed in the government crackdown.

But Panelo said it is necessary for the government to feel confident that the probe will be done fairly.

"All they have to do is to ask us, not prejudge us," said Panelo.

Office of Executive Secretary reacts

The Office of the Executive Secretary issued a rare written statement on Monday decrying the UNHRC resolution.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said the government rejects the resolution because it allowed a "minority" to bypass UN mechanisms.

"Through it, a minority has short-circuited and rendered inutile the time-honored mechanisms by which the UN maintains accountability of member-states, such as the treaty body system and the UNHRC's Universal Periodic Review," said Medialdea. 

He said the 18 countries that voted in favor of the resolution is a "small group" relative to the UNHRC membership of 47 states and the larger UN membership of 193 states.

Yet, through the resolution, this group "has unceremoniously grabbed the platform provided by the Human Rights Council" without "verifying the facts on the ground," said Medialdea.

Panelo, in a Malacañang statement, had previously said the UNHRC resolution was "designed to embarrass the Philippines before the international community and the global audience." He had also labeled it "one-sided" and "maliciously partisan."

As to Duterte ally Senator Imee Marcos' call for the Philippines to cut ties with Iceland over the resolution, Panelo said he was personally in agreement. But he would leave it to Duterte and Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr to decide on the matter. – Rappler.com 

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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