UN body to look into PH rights implementation amid war on drugs

A police SWAT member stands guard as crime scene operatives examine the site where two bodies lay on a road after being killed in a police drug “buy-bust” operation before dawn Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 in Pasig City.


MANILA — The Geneva based-United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council will review this week the Philippine observance of economic, social and cultural rights, such as the government’s approach to illegal drug users, and discuss President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs that has led to the summary killings of drug suspects.

The rights body, in a statement over the weekend. said the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is due to review Philippine compliance to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) on September 28 to 29.

The Philippines is among 164 states that ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). As a state party, it is required to undergo regular review by the committee.

The Philippine government has submitted its report on measures to implement the covenant and this will be reviewed by the committee composed of 18 independent human rights experts.

Right to health, including the rehabilitation of drug addicts, is under Article 12 of the Covenant, said Liz Throssell, press attaché of UNHRC.

“Extrajudicial killings (of drug suspects) won’t be raised per se. BUT the Committee does frequently ask countries about their approach, including harm reduction, to tackling illegal drug abuse, drug users, in the context of Article 12 of the Covenant-right to health,” said Throssell in an email to the Inquirer.

“So there may be an interesting discussion with this angle (extrajudicial killings of drug suspects) during the session,” she added.

Former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Etta Rosales believes UN experts will discuss extrajudicial killings of drug suspects since the issue falls under the government’s commitment to provide proper health care to citizens.

“Victims of extrajudicial killings need health care, education to be able to work properly,” Rosales, who also served as Akbayan Partylist Representative, said in a text message to Inquirer.

She stressed that rights of drug addicts are covered by the government’s commitment to implement economic and social rights guaranteed by the covenant.

“They (drug addicts) sniff solvents to ease pangs of hunger; they sell drugs because they have no skills for sustainable work,” said Rosales.

The UNHRC said the committee will issue its findings on the Philippines on October 10, 2016. The committee will also release the findings on Costa Rica, Cyprus, Poland, Tunisia, Lebanon, Dominican Republic on the same day.

Duterte has cursed leaders of multilateral organizations such as theUN and European Union (EU) and US President Obama for criticizing the rising cases of summary killings of drug suspects.

He dared UN rapporteurs on summary killings and EU rights experts to come to the Philippines to investigate the situation on condition that he will be given a chance to respond and explain his policy on war on drugs.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the government will only agree to a visit of UN rapporteurs and EU rights experts if they would agree on certain protocols and parameters.

DFA spokesperson Charles Jose said the protocols and guidelines include the list of people to be interviewed and places to be visited by the UN rapporteurs and EU rights experts.

CHR chairman Chito Gascon, on the other hand, said the review will focus on right to health, shelter, education, work.

He said summary killings of drug suspects that have reached more than 3,000 will be contained in the Universal Period Review of the UN rights body in April 2017.