Remulla tells UNHRC: ‘Be wary of Red’s subterfuge’

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla attends the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva Switzerland. | UN Web TV screengrab

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla has called on the country’s United Nations partners to exercise due diligence in validating alleged human rights violations in the Philippines received from various sources.

Remulla warned that the Philippines is dealing with the longest-running communist armed conflict in the world whose supporters “deliberately blur the lines between civic activism and armed violence.”

The official issued the words of caution before the UN Human Rights Council’s “Adoption of the Recommendations of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Republic of the Philippines” late Wednesday.

“They use human rights as a tool to advance their violent agenda, claiming red-tagging and reprisal when the State exercises its duty to protect the human rights to life, liberty, security of persons, and property; and to preserve national security and safeguard the democratic order,” Remulla said.

He was referring to the 53-year-old Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New Peoples’ Army.

Remulla added that claims of a shrinking civic and media space are unfounded, arising from a particular politico-security context that is oftentimes overlooked by those that view the Philippines from afar.

Remulla lamented that armed conflict has curtailed the Filipino people’s right to development, causing unimaginable suffering to many families, particularly those whose children have been recruited to bear arms against the government.

Rule of law

The Philippine government, he said, is determined to end the problem by addressing its root causes through a whole-of-nation strategy anchored on good governance, rule of law, social justice that will effectively uplift human dignity, and the quest for lasting peace.

“We will continue to cooperate with civil society, and together bring about the peace and progress that the Filipino people richly deserve,” he added.

He said accountability is necessary for a just and humane society where the rule of law reigns.

“Extrajudicial killing is not state policy. Classifying a death that occurred during an anti-illegal drug operation as extrajudicial killing by default runs counter to the tenets of due process and the rule of law,” Remulla added.

The Philippines, he added, will never tolerate the abuse of power and use of force beyond the bounds of the law.

Extending the Philippines’ appreciation to all delegations that engaged the country in the UPR constructive dialogue, Remulla said the government is encouraged by the acknowledgment of the different states of the significant strides and best practices in the following: upholding the rights of children, migrant workers, refugees, persons in vulnerable situations and those at risk; fighting human trafficking; enhancing democratic institutions, and expanding civic space.

Vibrant democracy

He assured his audience that the Philippines is a vibrant democracy where freedom of expression, including the right to hold dissenting opinions, and the right to peaceful assembly are protected.

“Let me say this in no uncertain terms: There is no state policy to attack, harass, or intimidate human rights defenders, including environmental rights defenders, lawyers and other practitioners of the legal profession, and the media,” Remulla said.

The Philippines’ belief in the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights is better demonstrated in climate change and its adverse and compounding impacts on human rights, he stressed.

“Environmental rights defenders are partners in promoting climate goals and their freedom and safety should certainly be protected. But let us not lose sight of the bigger issue which is, that all countries must faithfully and urgently fulfill their international obligations on climate action,” he said.

Reiterating the Philippine government’s call for climate justice, Remulla said developed countries should increase financing for mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage for developing countries.

“We expect nothing less from our friends and partners that have been the beacon of human rights and justice the world over,” he added.

Aware of the areas where improvements can be made as stated in the UPR, he assured that the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., through the Department of Justice and other stakeholders, is working on improvements and spearheading the transformational reform of its justice and law enforcement systems.

Less than solid

“The promotion and protection of human rights is a solemn Constitutional commitment and constant endeavor that the Government of the Philippines shall never waver from,” said Remulla in accepting 200 recommendations that are more than two-thirds of all the recommendations during the UPR presented by Namibia, Marshall Islands, and Poland.

Among the 200 recommendations include the UN Joint Program, the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, a National Human Rights Action Plan, combating discrimination and gender-based violence, maintaining a moratorium on the death penalty, preventing extrajudicial killings, conducting independent investigations, decongesting prisons, further expanding access to justice, protecting human rights defenders and journalists, promoting the rights to education, health, and an adequate standard of living, as well as upholding the rights of persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, women, children, refugees, and stateless persons.

Remulla, however, raised the observation that some claims and recommendations are believed to rest on less than solid premises or are not in line with cultural values, religious beliefs, and national identity.

“As our system of government consists of three independent and co-equal branches, each with its own mandate, we will review them in consultation with relevant stakeholders back home. We will submit our position on these deferred recommendations in due course,” he added.

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