In secret balloting by the United Nations General Assembly last Friday, 165 out of 193 votes, with one abstention, were cast for a new three-year term for the Philippines in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
The Philippines was first elected to a three-year term in the 47-member council in 2015, one of five Asian nations, the others being South Korea, Kyrgyztan, Mongolia, and United Arab Emirates. At the end of this first term, the Philippines was reelected to a second three-year term. This time, the other Asian nations elected were Bahrain, Bangladesh, Fiji, and India.
Before the election, some human rights activists around the world aired accusations against Philippine President Duterte’s anti-drugs campaign, some claiming that as many as 12,000 had been killed in the course of the campaign. Last June, the Presidential Communications Operation Office said a total of 4,279 drug suspects had been killed in the campaign since 2001, “and all else other than these are either false, manufactured, or fake.” The Philippine National Police later issued its own report that there had been 22,983 cases of killings of all kinds, not just drug cases, described as “Deaths Under Inquiry.’” But only 4,279 were declared to be directly related to the campaign on drugs.
Concerns of human rights violations were raised at the beginning of the anti-drugs campaign. The UN Commission on Human Rights and the European Union were among those which voiced their concern. But the Duterte administration defended its campaign against the drug menace which, it said, had turned out to be bigger than earlier feared.
There were calls to remove the Philippines from its seat in the UN Human Rights Council. Instead, at the end of its three-year term, the Philippines was reelected to a second term last week. President Duterte’s new spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said: “The President’s campaign against illegal drugs, corruption, and criminality has, in effect, been acknowledged by the international community as essential to the protection of the right to life, liberty, and property.”
The drug menace has become a world-wide threat and many countries are probably studying the Philippine experience, with a view to trying it in an effort to solve their own problems. This may explain why 165 out of 193 members of the United Nations voted to give the Philippines a second term as member of the UN Human Rights Council.