MANILA, Nov 15 (Mabuhay) — The Philippines should take action to protect and promote human rights, including addressing killings of the war on drugs and ensuring access to justice for victims, some member-nations of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) have said.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla (Facebook Page Photo)

The UNHRC states made the recommendations on Monday during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which assessed the human rights record of a countries.

The Philippines took part in the process, sending a delegation led by Department of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla who told the body that impunity was not tolerated and that the government provided a democratic space for rights activists in the country.

A number of member-states called for the solution of the cases of killings and the protection of human rights defenders.

France said the incumbent administration should take necessary measures to effectively combat impunity for perpetrators of summary execution in the anti-drug campaign.

Canada said it must be ensured that victims in the war on drugs have “access to justice” by effective prosecution.

Belgium recommended that the Philippines also take swift action on the killing of journalists.

In calling for continued investigation on extrajudicial killings, Australia urged the Philippines to have continuous engagement with the UN.

Austria said it regretted the withdrawal of the Philippines from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) during the previous administration.  It called for the amendment of the Anti Terrorism Act and the enactment of a human rights defenders protection bill.

Ireland said it remained concerned over reports of killings and enforced disappearances. 

“We also regret that since the last Universal Periodic Review, the Philippines has withdrawn from the ICC. We remind the Philippines of its obligation to cooperate with the prosecutor’s ongoing investigation into alleged international crimes commission and ensure access to justice to victims,” the representative of Ireland said.

China welcomed the Philippines’ achievement in protecting and promoting human rights.  It said the country should push ahead in developing its economy “to provide a solid foundation for its people to enjoy all human rights.”

Member-states also urged the Philippines to address violence against women and children, stop enforced disappearances, focus on climate change, promote the welfare of migrant workers and persons with disabilities, and ensure non-discrimination of all genders.

Remulla: No impunity

Responding to the recommendations of several countries, Remiulla said the Philippines provided an “enabling space” for the civil society and human rights defenders. 

“We have a thriving, vibrant and participative democratic space,” he said, noting the thousands of civil society organizations in the country.

As to the killings, he said reforms were underway to strengthen the internal affairs arm of the national police which will be given independence to “answer many questions about the impunity being talked about.”

Remulla said the Marcos administration had refocused the campaign on illegal drugs toward poverty alleviation and rehabilitation.

He allayed fears of the return of capital punishment under the current administration.

“I assure everybody here that President Marcos is not inclined to restore the death penalty anytime in his term in office,” he said. (MNS)