PH ready to host ‘impartial’ experts to assess HR situation, Cayetano tells UN chief

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UN Secretary General Gutteres welcomes DFA Secretary Cayetano before their meeting in New York last Friday (Sept. 29, 2017). DFA HANDOUT PHOTO

MANILA – The Philippine government is ready to work with the United Nations on issues related to sustainable development, including human rights, but asked the world body to send only impartial experts to make an assessment.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano made this clear in a meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres, adding that Manila is ready to welcome experts to conduct an objective assessment of the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Cayetano explained that the only reason the Philippines refuses to invite Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard is because she had already prejudged the human rights situation in the country and even referred to President Duterte as a murderer.

In their meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York on Friday, Cayetano also assured the Secretary General that the Philippines is ready to contribute to the attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He expressed support for UN migration initiatives, which Gutteres, as former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, had identified as one of his priorities.

The two also took up how the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the UN can work together and engage in deeper discussions on various issues. Also present during the meeting with the Secretary General were Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Bayani Mercado and Permanent Representative Teodoro Locsin Jr.

Not turning backs on human rights

Cayetano expressed his appreciation to the Secretary General for allowing him to present the side of the Duterte Administration in its campaign against crime and illegal drugs. “We will fully cooperate and work with you on a rationale, open, fair dialogue on our campaign against crime and illegal drugs,” the DFA chief said as he invited Gutteres to help Manila draw up the mechanisms for this collaboration.

“There are real problems but perceptions have overtaken us in western media that make it appear the situation is worse than it actually is,” he told the former Portuguese Prime Minister. “We’re not turning our back on human rights,” the Secretary clarified. “Our campaign against crime and illegal drugs is not intended to violate human rights; it is intended protect the human rights of our people.”

In conveying Manila’s willingness to receive experts who would assess the human rights situation in the country, Cayetano requested the Secretary General to send only those with no bias against the Philippines. “All we want is an impartial assessment and not outright condemnation to help us understand the extent of the problems that we are confronted with,” Cayetano told the Secretary General.

Referring to Callamard, Cayetano said, “How can someone who is in league with our political opposition conduct a fair and objective assessment of our human rights situation?” He presented Gutteres with published statements and social media postings of Special Rapporteur Callamard that were critical of the Duterte Administration.

The meeting came a day after the Philippines responded strongly against criticisms of its human rights record by Iceland and 38 other mostly European countries before the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

It also followed the Secretary’s meetings with United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other officials in New York as well as his bilateral meetings on the sides of the 72nd Session of the UN Secretary General, where he also conveyed Manila’s willingness to work with the international community as long as the human rights issue is not politicized. – With a report by Dale de Vera, News5