Palace dismisses rights group's remarks as 'nuisance'

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Thursday dismissed the comments of international watchdog Human Rights Watch as “unwarranted nuisance” for supposedly accusing the Philippines of violating its international obligations and for “threatening” to call for the country’s removal from the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Over the weekend, the New York-based group warned the Philippines that it is risking its membership of the UNHRC, not of the world organization itself, if it continues with its “murderous” drug war.

Responding to the “noise” coming from the HRW, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, citing the resolution that established UNHRC, said that the Philippines can only be expelled from the UN’s right body by vote of two thirds of all members of the UN General Assembly present.

“The only basis for suspension of privileges of members of the UNHRC is for the concerned member to have committed ‘gross and systematic violations of human rights’ and such a decision is not of the UNHRC,” Abella said.

“The fact, however, remains that the UNHRC unanimously accepted and commended the Outcome Report on the Philippines’ Universal Periodic Review—a decision undermined by HRW,” he added.

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According to John Fisher, the HRW’s advocacy director in Geneva, the Philippine membership in the council entailed the responsibility of upholding the highest standards of human rights and allowing itself to be subjected to the UN’s processes.

Despite these warnings, President Rodrigo Duterte seemed unfazed as he challenged international groups and some countries to move for the removal of the Philippines from the United Nations, saying that some nations won’t allow that to happen.

READ: Duterte dares groups, countries to remove Philippines from UN

“You want to expel us? You try. Your $1,000 will earn P1 million if you can expel us from the UN. Bakit papayag kaya ang Russia pati ang China? Ulol pala kayo (You are fools). You think China and the rest of the countries of ASEAN will agree to that?” Duterte said in a profanity-laced speech on Thursday.

“Is it your decision? You think you can do it? You have to pass for the Security Council. If one of the members would say, ‘Let us talk about this.’ Do you think Russia and China will allow it?” the president added.

Article 6 of the Second Chapter of the UN Charter says that a member of the UN can be removed if it has “persistently violated the principles” of the founding document. It adds that the state or country can be “expelled from the Organization by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.”

Being two of the five permanent members of the body’s security council, Russia and China can veto resolutions, which means that they can prevent the adoption of any substantive resolution.

Duterte’s war on drugs has been heavily criticized by domestic and international organizations.

According to the latest police statistics, there have been 6,225 drug-related deaths since July 2016.

The police said 3,850 have “died in police operations,” suggesting these are drug suspects who engaged arresting officers in shootouts.

However, human rights groups estimate a higher death toll, with some approximations going as high as 13,000 individuals killed in the course of the administration’s anti-narcotics campaign.

READ: PNP: 6,225 drug-related deaths, no extrajudicial killings