On the PH Government’s comprehensive reaction to the latest report of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Philippine Government welcomes the acknowledgment by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that the Philippines in recent years has advanced human rights through measures such as universal health care, universal access to tertiary education, the provision of support for mental health, and many others. We are also gratified that the OHCHR has noted our efforts in improving the administration of justice, the provision of treatment and rehabilitation for drug users, and the millions spent for social and economic development programs under initiatives for sustainable peace in conflict-ridden areas. By the OHCHR’s own reckoning, the “legal, constitutional and institutional framework in the Philippines contains human rights safeguards, as well as checks and balances.”

The Philippine Government continues to ensure the exercise of the rights guaranteed by our Constitution. However, it is also the Philippine Government’s duty to enforce the acknowledged and clear limits of these rights: public order, public safety and security, and public health. In the midst of a crippling pandemic, it is the Philippine Government’s responsibility to ensure that its citizens are not exposed to the virus, misled by misinformation spread under the guise of free speech, or harmed by criminals taking advantage of a precarious situation.

We maintain that the rule of law is upheld in the Philippines and any offenses committed by law-enforcement or otherwise will be dealt with in accordance with due process. Our courts stand ready to receive and rule on any complaints and their autonomy is respected by the Duterte Administration. Our commitment to the campaign against illegal drugs is buoyed not just by its gains with respect to drug users rehabilitated and drug peddlers stopped, but by the public’s continued support for the President, who won his office on the issue of illegal drugs. The OHCHR’s conclusions regarding the supposed crackdown on critical advocates is belied by its own findings that the “Philippines has a long-standing, robust tradition of human rights advocacy and civil society activism, with 60,000 registered non-governmental organizations.”

The Philippine Government notes the recommendations made by the OHCHR, but cannot commit to their full implementation given the faulty conclusions on which they were premised, among them the alleged violations of the right to life, the supposedly arbitrary deprivation of liberty of those involved in drug cases, the alleged violations of the right to health, and the implication that Filipino civic space is being destroyed by the focus given to public order and national security. We firmly reject these conclusions. That being said, the Government will continue to respect its international legal obligations, including human rights.