NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 16 July) – In a vote 18 in favour, 14 against, and 15 abstention, the UN Human Rights Council decided to probe on the alleged human rights violations in the Philippines in the advent of the Duterte campaign to end the drug menace. The PNP reported 6,600 deaths related to its anti-drug operations while human rights watchers claim a figure far beyond. The government’s very own Human Rights Commission estimated a death toll of 27,000 arising from the three-year-old drug war.
Palace spokesperson Sal Panelo belittles and rejects the decision of the Council asserting it is biased and partisan and not valid because it was not unanimously adopted and failed to get even a simple majority of the voting members. In fact, he said, the voting showed that many in the 47-member Council were actually against the probe if the 15 abstentions are added to the 14 who opposed it (14+15=29).
Panelo forgets that when it comes to voting in a democratic decision making the winning majority is not reckoned from the number of those who are supposed to vote but from those who actually cast their votes. And abstention is just that: a voter does not make or show his choice on an issue. It is not a NO vote.
The legal adviser’s ridiculous statistical quibbling may yet boomerang on his patron. Mr. Rodrigo Roa Duterte became president of the Republic with 15.97M votes, which is only some 29% of the registered voters (54.4M) in the 2016 presidential elections. Duterte’s 15.97M winning votes constitute but 38% of the votes cast, where 60% were against him in the combined votes of Roxas, 9,70M (23%), Poe, 8.93M (21%), Binay, 5.32M (12%), and Santiago, 1,42M (3.4%). To follow Panelo’s logic, Duterte did not get a majority vote, thus, his election was not valid and, therefore, he should not have been our president.
There is actually no need to be apprehensive on the approaching UN probe, if, indeed, the regime has nothing to hide, or if the drug offensive is above board. The Duterte government ought, in fact, to welcome it with open arms, cooperate and offer to the probers all records on the drug cleansing program, allow them to interview all persons of interest without parrying their efforts with threats, intimidations or imagined legal obstacles. Key law enforcers, past and present, should refrain from being panicky and emotionally defensive of the drug cleansing under their watch. If General Bato, the Tokhang architect, cannot say something intelligible, he better zip his lips as not to shame his new office. Apologizing after every senseless and tactless pronouncement erodes credibility or of what is left of it. Emotions darken the mind and may only lead to regrettable outcomes. The neophyte senator must stop being funny; it’s beyond the task or imagination of the UN human rights investigators to behead him, as he has theatrically offered, in case they could establish a state-sponsored extra judicial killing in our blighted motherland.
Incumbent PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde is not helping either in clearing the panicky atmosphere when he suggested from nowhere, without any shred of evidence, that the local communists could be behind the Human Rights Council resolution to gain propaganda mileage. Is there no other intelligent and sensible way to be counted in the defence team?
There is nothing to fear. President Duterte had made it explicitly clear that he would rather be jailed on account of his drug crusade than to be accused of corruption, forgetting of course, that drug is a corrupt octopus whose chocking, sucking and unshakable tentacles have encompassing reach.
That the UN probe is a political move to embarrass or bring down the popular Duterte administration is hogwash. The Philippines is a member of the UN Human Rights Council, renewed by 100% votes of the members of the UN General Assembly last January 2019. The country’s representative in the Council had not reported any lobbying coming from any group in the Philippines or from international communities to influence the probe decision that took within two weeks of deliberation to reach.
The UN probe regardless of findings will not convict or charge anyone in any court. The probe may yet come out helpful to the government because its report upon assessment of the drug campaign will include comprehensive recommendations on how to improve the campaign, naturally to make it more humane and universally acceptable.
There is nothing to fear except fear itself.
If ever, the Duterte government will not collapse from political maneuvers of the regime’s enemies or from external interference but from its own excesses or negligence.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)