UN TALK – Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay addresses the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York City, September 24 UN TALK – Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay addresses the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York City, September 24 (AFP/Manila Bulletin)

PH at UN: Let us deal with our domestic challenges without ‘undue interference’

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. on Saturday called on the United Nations (UN) and the rest of the world to allow the Philippine government to deal with its domestic challenges in order to achieve its national goals without “undue interference.”

“We have not and we will never empower our law enforcement agents to shoot-to-kill individuals suspected of drug crimes. Extrajudicial killings have no place in our society, and in our criminal justice system,” Yasay told the 71st session of the UN General Assembly.

The country’s top diplomat also told the General Assembly that Duterte enjoyed a 92-percent approval rating at home for his stance and suggested that his campaign was misunderstood.

“Our actions, however, have grabbed both the national headlines and international attention for all the wrong reasons,” he said.

Invoking the UN’s new sustainable development goals adopted last year, Yasay said his country would not be able to meet those goals without tackling corruption and drugs.

According to Yasay, the Filipino people have spoken when they elected President Duterte with an unprecedented and resounding electoral mandate. He said through their vote, the Filipinos have chosen a new leader who will “revitalize the entire country as a sovereign equal among the community of nations.”

“Their vote is the unequivocal voice for the renewal of our communities, and our society, and a life of constancy, dignity, and honor for each and every Filipino,” he said.

The “renewal” and the “revitalization” of the country is needed now more than ever as “corruption has become the breeding ground for the illegal drug trade which seriously threatens the country’s peace and order which, in turn, impedes our sustainable development goals.”

“It has torn apart many of our communities, destroyed our families, and snuffed out the hopes and dreams of our people – young and old – for a bright future,” said Yasay.

This is the reason why the Duterte administration is fully determined to “free the Philippines from corrupt practices, as we eradicate illicit drugs and its manufacture, distribution, and use in the country.”

MOON AND STARS

Malacañang said President Duterte is not asking for “the moon and stars” when he pressed the UN and the European Union (EU) to give him a chance to air his side on the alleged summary killings of drug criminals in the country.

Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Martin Andanar assured that the President is ready to cooperate with the foreign probers but insisted that his condition to ask them questions was also reasonable.

The President recently invited UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, his rapporteurs as well as EU officials to visit the country and look into the drug-related deaths.

Duterte, however, laid down a condition that he should be allowed to ask the foreign visitors about the issue in a public forum. “Come here and investigate me but this would not be a one-way affair,” the tough-talking former mayor of Davao City said.

A similar invitation to probe the drug deaths, which reportedly reached more than 3,000, was extended to United States President Barack Obama, who also aired human rights concerns in the country.

The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier said the UN special rapporteurs and EU rights experts who are planning to visit the country should follow certain protocols when they investigate the killings.

DFA spokesman Charles Jose said the government might prohibit the foreign probers to go to slum areas to talk to families of victims of alleged summary killings for their own safety. The guidelines to the foreign visitors include the list of people to be interviewed and places to be visited.

EXECUTIVE-JUDICIARY

In the Senate, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian called on President Duterte to work with the judiciary on implementing reforms which will strengthen the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign through the speedy disposition of drug-related cases.

Gatchalian said the government should ensure that the judiciary receives the budget appropriations needed to hire additional personnel and funds for judicial operations at all levels.

He pointed out the judiciary had asked for P40.4-billion for 2017 budget, but only P32.5-billion has been allocated – a 19.5 percent shortfall.

“We cannot win the war on drugs unless the judiciary is equipped with the resources it needs to efficiently bring drug offenders to justice,” Gatchalian said.

“Appropriating more public funds to the judiciary will help the scales of justice work more smoothly,” he added.

Gatchalian also called on the judiciary, headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, to institute internal reforms which will speed up the hearing of drug cases, such as the creation of new dangerous drug courts and the promulgation of more efficient trial procedures.

“The executive and judicial branches of government must work hand-in-hand to make ensure victory in the War on Drugs. After all, while it is up to the executive branch to catch the bad guys, ultimate it is the judiciary which will make sure that the bad guys will be convicted and put behind bars,” said Gatchalian.

Senator Leila de Lima, meanwhile, questioned the Duterte administration’s move to limit the movements of the 18-man team of the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur that would visit the Philippines to investigate the alleged extra judicial killings.

“What kind of investigation can we expect if the government is going to decide how the investigation is going to be conducted by UN rapporteur’s team?” De Lima pointed out.

It was De Lima who earlier filed a Senate resolution asking the Duterte administration, through the Department of Foreign Affairs to send a formal invitation to United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on summary executions Agnes Callamard to look into the phenomenon of extrajudicial killings in the country amid the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

PRIMO SUPPORT

An organization of retired and active policemen has declared support to the ongoing illegal drugs war of the Philippine National Police (PNP) amid local and foreign criticisms over human rights issues.

Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos, PNP spokesman, said the declaration of support was made through a Board Resolution signed by officials of the Police Professionals for Righteousness and Integrity Movement (PRIMO).

“PRIMO has expressed its unwavering commitment and support to the leadership of Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa in line with the relentless campaign of the government against illegal drugs, criminality and corruption,” said Carlos, quoting the PRIMO resolution sent to the PNP leadership.

A total of 1,216 suspected pushers and users were killed from July 1 while 18,873 were arrested in various police operations across the country.

On the other hand, a total of 721,067 surrendered across the country.

The rising number of fatalities in the illegal drugs war, numbering 3,000 if those killed by alleged vigilante groups are to be included, has caught the attention of local and foreign rights groups.

While critics also expressed doubts that President Duterte’s campaign promise of ending illegal drugs in six months could be accomplished, PRIMO officials said they believe the police war against illegal drugs will win.

“They are confident that General dela Rosa and the PNP as a whole will win the campaign,” said Carlos. (With a report from Aaron B. Recuenco)

 

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