Palace revives misleading remarks on outcome of UN rights review

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It wasn't the first for Malacañang to highligh how the UN Human Rights Council "unanimously accepted and commended" the country's outcome report. It has done so on at least three other occasions while Ernesto Abella was President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman. Philstar.com/AJ Bolando
MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesman Harry Roque flaunted the United Nations Human Rights Council's supposed unanimous acceptance and praise of the Philippines' outcome report during the Universal Periodic Review in a statement released Sunday for International Human Rights Day. His remarks, however, were misleading.
 
"This government shall strive to bestow upon every Filipino an equal share in the nation’s progress. And we are pleased that this direction has been accepted by no less than the highest peer review body in the world on all matters of human rights, which is the UNHRC, when it unanimously accepted and commended the Outcome Report on the Philippines’ Universal Periodic Review this year," Roque, who was a human rights advocate before joining government, said.
 
READ: Palace says marginalized a Duterte priority amid views drug war is anti-poor
 
This, however, wasn't the first time that Malacañang highlighted how the UNHRC "unanimously accepted and commended" the country's outcome report. It did so on at least three other occasions when Ernesto Abella was still serving as President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman. 
 
First, on September 23, soon after the report was adopted, as proof of the government's commitment to human rights protection. Second, on September 27 to counter a VERA Files fact check on the government's misrepresentation of the review's outcome and to point out the existence of international support of the drug war. And third, on October 12 to dismiss a warning by Human Rights Watch that the country would risk its UNHRC membership if it continues with its narcotics crackdown.
 
READ: Ignoring issues raised, Philippines claims 'victory' in UN review
 
The UPR is a unique mechanism that aims to improve the human rights situation of all the 193 UN member-states by assessing if they are fulfilling their human rights obligations.
 
Adoption of an outcome report is procedural during the UPR and is not an endorsement of the human rights situation of the reviewed country. The report provides a summary of the actual discussion during the review—the questions, comments and recommendations made by states and the reviewed country's responses. It is the duty of the reviewed state to implement the adopted recommendations and to provide a progress report. 
 
Malacañang's use of the word "accepted" instead of "adopted" might have also caused a bit of confusion as the former is the term used to refer to one of the two responses a reviewed country can give to recommendations. The reviewed country can either choose to accept or note the recommendations but cannot reject them.
 
READ: UPR: Fast facts on the UN review of Philippine human rights
 

 
During the adoption of the Philippines' UPR outcome, some speakers thanked the country for cooperation in the review and acceptance of recommendations to combat poverty and promote the right to education and the rights of vulnerable groups. 
 
However, in focusing on praise by some nations, Malacañang draws attention away from how other states and non-government organizations aired concern over drug-related killings and the culture of impunity in the country. Others underscored unease on the absence of national legislation to protect members of the LGBT community from discrimination and violence.
 
The Philippines accepted only 40 percent or 103 out of 257 recommendations, which is way below the average rate of acceptance by states at 80 percent, the UNHRC revealed to VERA Files in an email last September.
 
READ: Philippines rejects nations' positions on drug war deaths
 
Days after the adoption of the Philippines' outcome report, 39 countries expressed worry about the mounting number of deaths in the drug war and urged the Duterte government to allow a probe by UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard.

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