The Department of Foreign Affairs today clarified that it was not the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that criticized the Philippines during its 38th Session in Geneva but a group of countries led by Iceland.
The DFA said it was also Iceland and several other countries and not the Council that Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano called out for their biased and misinformed criticism of the Philippines.
Only 11 of the 38 countries that allegedly signed the joint statement delivered by Iceland are members of the 47-member Council. This is contrary to erroneous reports that all members of the Council aligned themselves with the Iceland-led criticism of the Philippines, the DFA said.
On Friday, Secretary Cayetano scored Iceland and several other mostly European countries for insisting on their biased and unfounded criticism of Manila’s human rights record.
“We regret that Iceland and several other countries maintained their position despite our offer for them to visit the Philippines and objectively asses the human rights situation, especially at the community level,” Secretary Cayetano said from New York.
The Secretary said he even personally extended an invitation to Iceland Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson to visit Manila to see for himself the human rights situation in the country.
“Unfortunately, it seems our friends are really not interested in arriving at the truth and would rather rely on the misinformation being fed to them by parties that have politicized and weaponized human rights,” Secretary Cayetano said.
“Politics is politics but politicizing human rights endangers lives,” the Secretary said in the statement he issued after Iceland and several other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, and Finland, again criticized the Philippines at the general debate of the 38th Session of the Human Rights Council.
“This is a minority in the 47-member Human Rights Council,” according to Philippine Permanent Representative Evan Garcia who responded to the criticism by pointing to the rising xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiments in parts of Europe and elsewhere, including some of the countries that spoke against the Philippines.
“We are shocked by the persistent abusive and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, whether legal or otherwise, their lack of inclusion in society and their oftentimes woefully limited access to all kinds of services,” Ambassador Garcia said in response to the joint statement.
In exercising Manila’s right of reply during the general debate, Ambassador Garcia cited numerous reports of exploitation of migrants under conditions of great vulnerability.
“We remind countries that have such severe shortcomings, including the United Kingdom and Australia, that the Philippines has preferred to engage with them in a positive manner, whether bilaterally or multilaterally” Ambassador Garcia said, citing as examples the Global Forum for Migration and Development and in the ongoing negotiations for the Global Compact on Migration.
“This is in stark contrast with the needlessly confrontational attitude they have taken in [the Human Rights] Council,” Ambassador Garcia added.
The Filipino envoy also noted that developing countries are hosting 80 percent of the world’s refugees today. “It is a shame for developed countries to keep their eyes shut to this growing concern,” he said.
“The Philippines, a developing country even with its more than 100 million population, has been doing its small part in sharing the global burden of the protection of refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons and other persons of concern,” Ambassador Garcia pointed out.
“The Philippines remains a responsible member of this august body. We are respectful of our international human rights obligations. We remain a free, dynamic and democratic society. There is no basis, therefore, for the Council to be concerned with the situation in the Philippines,” Ambassador Garcia added. DFA