The Manila Times : BBM vows 'high accountability' for rights abuses

11 June 2022

By Catherine S. Valente | The Manila Times

(UPDATE) PRESIDENT-ELECT Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has promised a "high level of accountability" for human rights violations in the country during his watch.

Marcos made the commitment during his meeting with Ambassador Gustavo Gonzales, the UN representative to the Philippines, at his office in Mandaluyong City on Friday.

Gonzales said during a press briefing after the meeting that they talked at length about the Human Rights Council Resolution 4533 of 2020. "It means the UN and the government needs to work together in addressing some concerns on human rights and he's very much interested, for example, in ensuring a consultation for the nomination of the new Commission of Human Rights," he said.

"This is the topic that he immediately raised and he mentioned also the importance of ensuring high-level of accountability in terms of human rights [violations]…," he said.

Gonzales said he reaffirmed to Marcos the assurance that the UN will support the efforts of the Philippines to further its human rights agenda.

He said Marcos revealed that he is conducting consultations to come up with the best way of supporting the human rights agenda.

"So this was quite encouraging and as I mentioned, we reiterate the support of the United Nations," the envoy said.

Gonzales said the human rights concerns during the administration of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte were not discussed during the meeting, but Marcos committed to continue the government's war on drugs "within the framework of the law."

Duterte's relentless campaign against drugs led to the deaths of at least 12,000 Filipinos. Human rights organizations say they have proof that many of the deaths were extrajudicial killings.

In 2018, Duterte withdrew the Philippines' membership from the International Court or Justice (ICC) after the ICC launched an investigation into the drug war killings.

Last March this year, the President directed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to furnish human rights groups with a copy of the report on the drug war to enlighten them about the gravity of the drug problem in the country.

Duterte also said he would hold a dialogue with his successor to discuss the drug menace that continues to "haunt" the country.

Gonzales said Marcos was committed to continuing the war on drugs, but within the framework of the law and with respect for human rights and focus on rehabilitation and socioeconomic development was expressed.

Gonzales said he and Marcos also discussed the peace initiatives in the Philippines, particularly in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

"We emphasized the importance of sustaining peace, particularly in BARMM, and the historic opportunity for the sort of a whole-of-a-nation healing and reconciliation taken into account other conflicts in the Philippines," Gonzales said.

Marcos "confirmed its engagement, commitment, to make sure that peace… they are ensured and at the same time he recognized the importance in investing in peace to get a full recovery from the Covid-19 and build development," he added.

Gonzales said he and Marcos also discussed global challenges, including climate change.

"We discussed about the impact of natural disaster and he has a quite in-depth understanding of what is climate resilience, the importance of getting the Philippines as role model in terms of green economy, climate resilient economy and he even shared his understanding of the impact of the super typhoons and his plans in addressing natural disasters," he said.

The envoy said they also had the opportunity to discuss the preparation of the UN General Assembly that will take place in September.

During the assembly, Gonzales said they will also have the Transforming Education Summit, "an opportunity to discuss the impact of the Covid-19 on the education system."

"This UN General Assembly meeting will be the first time that the President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will be in front of an important number of head of states so this is a great, and I think a historic opportunity for the president and for the Philippines to share the new vision, the new challenges and, at the same time, the new opportunities," he added.

Marcos also met with Ambassador Annika Thunborg of Sweden, Ambassador Charles Brown of the Holy See, Ambassador William Carlos of Ireland and Ambassador Alain Gaschen of the Swiss Confederation.

Earlier this week, the United States deputy secretary of State, as well as diplomats from Germany, Italy and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, paid courtesy visits to Marcos.