Philippines, Duterte Should Allow A Fully Open and Complete Human Rights Assessment from The U.N., Unhampered — If There’s Nothing To Hide


The continuing killings related to the drug war are extensively covered by mass media, so the administration should see no problem in the arrival of an 18-member team from the United Nations to assess the human rights situation in the Philippines. The UN team will be here for only two days next week, so its members won’t be able to cover much more than what has already been reported.

Their conclusions or findings, however, may turn out to be more nuanced than those of the mass media. The administration should see the visit as a chance to explain to the world what President Duterte is trying to achieve, and why. The President may not care what the UN and other countries think of him, but there are Filipinos who do, including the more than 10 million who are working all over the world, plus those in the Philippines whose jobs, businesses or livelihoods may be affected by global perceptions about the country and its leader.

In 2007 the United Nations sent a special rapporteur on human rights, Philip Alston, to the Philippines amid reports of extrajudicial killings. After 10 days of visiting several places in the country, Alston concluded that both the Armed Forces of the Philippines and communist rebels were guilty of human rights violations including killings, but the AFP was “in almost total denial.”

The AFP said at the time that killings attributed to its members were part of legitimate counterinsurgency operations. A similar line is currently being used by the Philippine National Police in the bloody war on drugs. The PNP has echoed President Duterte’s position that about half of the nearly 3,000 drug suspects killed so far were slain in legitimate law enforcement operations.

Alston’s probe did not hinder military operations before, during or after his visit. The Arroyo administration, for its part, largely gave Alston free rein in conducting his inquiry. The Duterte administration should have nothing to worry about in the upcoming visit by the UN team.

Administration officials have often said that the government has nothing to hide in the relentless campaign to neutralize the drug menace. Allowing the UN to send an assessment team is a positive development. The government can go one step further by ensuring that the team will be unhampered in carrying out its mission.


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