17 countries grill Ermita at UNHRC review of RP rights record in Geneva

At least seventeen countries grilled and questioned Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita‘s “universal periodic review” report before the United Nations
Human Rights Council on Friday in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ermita, who led a big official Philippine delegation to the UPR session on the country, is now under attack both in Geneva and in Manila from human rights watchdogs for claiming “success” in defending the Arroyo government’s bloody human rights record.

Atty. Edre U. Olalia, president of the International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) and a member of the People’s UPR Watch delegation to Geneva, said that representatives of at least 17 countries “incessantly questioned” Ermita over extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, women and children’s rights, migrant rights, indigenous people’s rights, corruption and on the reason why the Philippines has not signed or ratified instruments against torture and disappearances.

“Stripped of the usual diplomatic courtesies, this sizable number sends a strong message that the Philippine human rights record is both under the microscope and within the radar of the international community,” said Olalia.

Among the questions raised on the Philippines where on the absence of convictions of perpetrators of 901 political killings.

The representative of Canada said that the country “remains concerned regarding few convictions”.

Slovenia meanwhile asked Ermita when the government will finally invite Martin Scheinin, the UN special rapporteur on “protecting human rights while fighting terrorism”. Scheinin last year assailed the passage and signing of the Anti-Terrorism Law.

Norway meanwhile asked the Philippines about its action on recommendations made by Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on political killings.

Also reminding Ermita of standing requests of other UN special rapporteurs to visit the Philippines was the delegate from Latvia.

The UK delivered hammering blows to Ermita’s delegation, said Olalia. “The Brits said that the Philippine government’s implementation of international rights instruments was ‘delayed and problematic’ and that their government sees ‘no impact’ from measures against corruption”.

“The Brits also implied that senior officials linked to corruption were not being held accountable,” said Olalia.

Olalia said that among the 17 countries that raised “straightfoward or critical” questions on the Philippine human rights report were France, Norway, Slovenia, Japan, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Algeria, Korea, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands, Mexico, and the
US.

The independent Philippine UPR Watch also sent a delegation to Geneva, including Fr. Rex Reyes of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines, head of delegation, Bayan Muna representative Teddy Casino, Jonathan Sta. Rosa, brother of slain Methodist pastor Isaias Sta. Rosa, and Karapatan secretary-general Marie Hilao Enriquez.

Olalia accused Ermita of mounting “a stage-managed roadshow of lies, hypocrisy and fantasy” before the UNHRC.

According to Olalia, many Filipinos who witnessed Ermita’s presentation were “appalled by the ebullient presentation of barefaced lies, spins and out-of-this-world razzle dazzle painting a paradise where there is respect for democratic rights, empowerment of women, protection of children and migrant rights, non-existence of corruption at the
highest levels, and a people who are not hungry at all”.

“Ermita and his delegation gave unsatisfactory and even formulaic answers to questions they chose to answer and totally ignored the rest like those regarding concrete steps on the recommendations of UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial
killings Philip Alston,” said Olalia.

Olalia said the Philippine UPR Watch and families of victims of human rights violations strongly object to Ermita’s concluding statement calling the Arroyo government “also a human rights defender”.

Olalia added that “as an admission of its negligence or even isrepresentation, the government delegation, a few minutes before the UPR session, issued a written “corregindium” that sought to correct
its earlier claim in its report that the Inter-Agency Task Force on alleged Extrajudicial Killings purportedly included representatives of
the National Democratic Front.”

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