MANILA—The Philippines has resolute and uncompromising commitment to human rights and firm adherence to due process and strict observance of the rule of law, pursuant to the mandate of the Philippine Constitution and to the country’s obligations under existing human rights treaties, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., on Monday said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said Yasay, who spoke before world leaders on Monday morning at the opening of the High Level Segment of the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC 34 – HLS) at the United Nations Office in Geneva, highlighted the Philippines’ pride in its longstanding history as an active champion of human rights in the United Nations.
Secretary Yasay noted that in 1947, the Philippines was among the members of the first UN Commission on Human Rights, which drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Six decades later, in 2006, the Philippines became a founding member of the Human Rights Council.
Beyond the Philippines fulfilling its obligations as a signatory to eight core UN human rights conventions and other human rights instruments, Secretary Yasay stressed that “(the) abiding respect for human rights is deeply rooted in the Filipino national consciousness, forged by historical experiences.”
This, he said was the reason “fundamental freedoms and human rights are vital” to the Filipino people and nation and “are held sacrosanct by Philippine laws”.
Yasay pointed out that the over-arching rationale for the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign was to uphold the Filipino people’s right to “safe communities” and to protect the Filipino public “from the deadly scourge of drugs”, citing that over 30 per cent of the country’s population are under the age of 14.
“Like any other country, we want safe communities that will develop and nurture our people -especially our young – into becoming citizens who are fully abloom with their potentials,” he stressed.
Yasay emphasized that the “higher and larger human rights issue is the human right to life, to a bright tomorrow, and the pursuit of happiness and progress for the (Filipino people).”
He underlined that in the conduct of the anti-illegal drug campaign, the government abides by its” solemn duty to uphold rule of law and due process as required under the Philippine justice system” and “remains resolute in continuing to promote, protect and uphold human rights of all persons within its jurisdiction.”
The chief Philippine envoy’s presence at the Human Rights Council in Geneva demonstrates the Philippines’ commitment to its international obligations, in particular with the United Nations and its mechanisms.
The Philippines shares the view that the UN Human Rights Council is essentially a forum and platform for multilateral dialogue, constructive engagement, understanding and cooperation among States and other relevant stakeholders for the promotion, protection, and fulfillment of all human rights.
The Philippines is among the 47 member-states of the Human Rights Council, sitting for the period 2016-2018.
The Human Rights Council is the principal organ of the United Nations dealing with the promotion and protection of human rights.
Since the Human Rights Council was created on 15 March 2006, Secretary Yasay is the second Foreign Affairs Secretary who participated in the High Level Segment; the first was former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo, who also addressed the Council at its 7th Session in March 2008.
The UN Human Rights Council is headquartered at the UN Office in Geneva and meets for its regular sessions thrice a year, i.e., March, June and September.
The March session features high-level dignitaries from UN member States. For this year, 107 dignitaries, including the President of Palestine, are lined up for the three-day High Level Segment.
Yasay was among the first speakers out of the 107 dignitaries from all over the world. This is the biggest number of dignitaries that have addressed the Human Rights Council.
Dignitaries who spoke in the morning session include Mr. Antonio Guterres, the new UN Secretary General; Mr. Peter Thompson, President of the UN General Assembly; Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine; and, the Foreign Ministers of Croatia, Portugal, Slovakia, Paraguay, and El Salvador.