The negative reactions of the Philippine government to the Iceland-initiated resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that would prompt the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to look into the human rights condition in the country stunned me. The resolution calls for a probe into the extra-judicial killings (EJK) under the Duterte administration’s brutal drug war.
The swift response by the government was understandable, but the anger and the threats were not. The investigation has not even begun yet. Besides, rightly or wrongly, with more than 6,000 people dead, doesn’t the grim situation demand an investigation by a neutral body?
What is the government afraid of? The truth?
The image of a scared dog with its tail between its legs was what flashed in my imagination as I read in various media outlets the reactions of individuals representing various government institutions.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. found the resolution as a “form of disrespect or acts of bad faith” and warned that “consequences will be far-reaching” for those countries that voted in favor of the UN probe.
The position taken by Locsin provided a platform for many of President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies to follow suit. Immediately, there was a consensus among the president’s men that the probe is meant to embarrass the Philippines.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea branded the resolution “a pernicious act, an affront to a sovereign, peace-loving nation, and abuse of UNHRC processes.”
Newly-elected Sen. Ronald ‘Bato’ de la Rosa offered to be beheaded if it is proven beyond any doubt that the much-publicized extra-judicial killings are state-sponsored.
Senate President Tito Sotto III described the nations that voted to investigate the government as having no moral ascendancy because they allow abortions in their countries.
Even Duterte, true to his reputation of being a braggart and brutally frank, described the 18 nations that voted in favor of the investigation as “fools.”
I believe that the government’s position will do a lasting damage not to the government per se and its rabid defenders, but more so to the victims and their families who will forever bear the scars of what they have experienced. And more victims will fall on the wayside because without any credible international organization to look into the alleged human rights violations, the killings will remain unabated and justice will be elusive.
The idea that extra-judicial killings will disappear or, at the very least, minimized and, therefore, there’s no need for any investigation by the UNCHR is a fallacy. I say this because the government has consolidated its hold on almost all the governmental bodies like the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Supreme Court. Never will these institutions do anything that will go against the whims of the president. This is unfortunate.
What the government’s defenders are doing is to demonize the UNHRC and steer the country away from what it perceives as “enemies” of the Filipino people, namely, the 18 countries that supported the Iceland-led resolution, under the pretext that the country’s dignity is under siege by foreign invaders. This leads me to believe that the idea of being open and transparent in the Duterte administration is a meaningless construct.
What the Duterte administration is telling the world is that the truth is not all that important. If one can bend the truth, bend it, if it is the only way to save one’s skin.
So why the fuss behind the UNCHR resolution to investigate the extra-judicial killings in the Philippines? Because the truth hurts and its reverberations can hurt the entire nation long before President Duterte leaves the presidency.