Last week’s vote by United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on the Iceland-backed resolution exasperated the sensitive Duterte administration and the DDS community. It generated legal, socio-legal and plain commentaries on the President, who is known for his shoutouts, name calling, rants and controversial public statements against persons, policies or even groups or states. Fresh from withdrawing from the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court, will the Philippines also withdraw from the UNHRC or even the United Nations itself?
The media are fast to speculate and ask hypothetical questions, which they often do. This administration is quick to retort and make statements sounding like decisions and policy frameworks. The UNHRC resolution asks for a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the country and pleas for cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner and the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council. It likewise seeks for the Philippines to refrain from intimidation and retaliation, as there have been allegations of threats, intimidation and personal attacks against special procedure mandate holders like the Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard.
This occasion reflects a human rights situation magnified through the lens of the outside world, the community of nations. The enthusiasm to proceed rises vis-à-vis the zeal to come out and be open with investigations and questions on the state human rights in the Philippines amid allegations of extrajudicial killings and other rights violations.
The tradition of human rights in the international arena had seen how the Philippines was at the forefront, such that the country was in fact instrumental to the creation of bodies like UNHRC and even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. With paradigm shifts, or sudden decisions, the country suddenly becomes aloof, silent and so sensitive about criticisms.
In other perspectives, this may be an instance of how a developed state views a developing one, having the ability to influence and gain control, to the detriment and violation of the rights of a state as a consequence. This may be a challenge to dig deep within the sovereign state, thereby violating the fundamentals of respect for domestic affairs, the inviolable internals of a sovereign.
Now, with the big number of Filipinos oft-described as modern-day heroes abroad, there is quite an oblivious and unattached government in relation to the welfare of Filipinos abroad, and most importantly, those within the country. If indeed, there is nothing to conceal, the cooperation called upon may even be so welcoming of a seemingly convincing invitation to engage, collaborate and protect human rights — universal, one and indivisible.
This arena of international law and international relations are quite a sad department. From the time of Foreign Secretary Cayetano to now Secretary Locsin, the incongruous and paradoxical policies to forward the national interest of the Philippines have been ostensibly clear. What seemingly was established was the country’s relations with China, to the exclusion of the rest of the world, as observers note.
What may be called upon in this state of affairs is a foreign policy devoid of inconsistency, and with conviction, a high level of maturity, and a united, not a divided archipelago. Certainly, there are so many teachings from diplomacy that we must yet learn as a country. More importantly, this reflects how we value a life that breathes in interconnectivity.