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UN committee examines human rights in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – A United Nations (UN) committee on Thursday evening, September 29, concluded its two-day review of human rights in the Philippines, with topics ranging from indigenous peoples to the recent extrajudicial killings in the country.

The UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights reviewed the Philippines from Wednesday to Thursday, September 28 to 29. The committee is composed of 18 independent human rights experts. 

Conducted in Geneva, the regular review is in line with the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which the Philippines ratified along with 163 other states.

This is not the proposed visit of UN rapporteurs to the Philippines, which Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte recently accepted subject to certain conditions

Still, experts from the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights tackled the most controversial issue faced by Duterte: the recent extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

"In particular, Experts were concerned about the extrajudicial killings which were related to the war of drugs, and which seemed to target the poorest populations," the UN said in a news release.

One expert, for instance, asked the Philippine delegation about "plans to stop the extrajudicial killings." The expert also wanted to know measures "to prevent the current war on drugs from becoming a war against the poor." (READ: 'Nanlaban sila': Duterte's war on drugs)

The Philippine delegation responded that the government aims "to end the culture of impunity on extrajudicial killings." The Philippines cited "the establishment of a high-level inter-ministerial committee, where the Commission on Human Rights and the Ombudsman sat as observers."

Committee report on October 10

The recent spate of drug-related killings was among a handful of other topics discussed by the 18-member UN committee. 

The committee also tackled the following:

The UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights will publish its report on the Philippines – as well as on Costa Rica, Cyprus, Poland, Tunisia, Lebanon, and the Dominican Republic – on October 10. 

The review of this UN committee comes as Duterte's war on drugs has killed at least 3,509 people. 

Of this number, 2,233 have died in extrajudicial or vigilante-style killings, while 1,276 have been slain in police operations. 

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has raised concern over the recent drug-related killings in the Philippines.

The European Parliament has also issued a resolution expressing alarm over the "extraordinarily high numbers killed during police operations in the context of an intensified anti-crime and anti-drug campaign" in the Philippines.

US President Barack Obama, too, has urged Duterte to fight crime "the right way."

Later, a US senator said the Philippines might face "further conditions" on US aid if extrajudicial killings continue, while another said Duterte is "endorsing what amounts to mass murder."

Duterte, however, has slammed these international groups and personalities, saying they should not interfere in domestic affairs. – Rappler.com 

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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