By William Casis i FilAm Star Correspondent

Akbayan Sen. Risa Hontiveros condemned the Duterte government’s statement  after the Philippines “won a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC),” saying it is “grossly misleading and hypocritical.”

Outgoing Foreign Affairs Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano claimed that the Philippines winning  a seat on the UNHRC shows the international community’s confidence in the Duterte administration’s human rights record and war on drugs.

“First, it is grossly misleading. It exposes the government’s ignorance of the UN’s complex dynamic. What’s this , lotto? We won?” she asked.

The Duterte government, she stressed,  cannot claim winning a seat on the UNHRC when all UN member-states agreed to take turns sitting on the council.

Hontiveros stressed that elections to the council happen annually. UN member-states serve for three years on a rotational basis, as some of the seats expire on 31 December every year.

There are 47 seats, equitably distributed according to five regional divisions. She said that some countries are out of the council simply because they didn’t apply for a second consecutive term, while some are out because they already served two consecutive terms, barring them for re-election.

The opposition Senator said that there were only 18 candidates for the 18 available seats on the council, eliminating any form of competition and assuring all candidates of seats on the council regardless of their human rights records.

“And yet, despite the absence of any competition, 27 countries decided to withhold their votes from the Philippines.”

Among the 193 countries in the UN General Assembly, 192 cast their votes. The Philippines got only 165, the lowest in the Asia-Pacific region,” Hontiveros said.

“The votes our country got, with 27 countries going out of their way to withhold their votes from us, speak clearly of the Philippines’s negative human rights image abroad. This is the reality the Duterte government is trying to hide from the public,” Hontiveros added.

Hontiveros also said the Duterte government’s claim is hypocritical. “After constantly attacking the UN human rights body for raising its voice against the killings in the Philippines, the Duterte government shifts gears and is now lauding the council. It is duplicity at its worst,” she said.

“The Duterte government is desperate to shore up its negative public image nationally and abroad. From its fake 50-100 diplomatic actions against China, now the Duterte government is pathetically twisting facts by issuing misleading statements.

On the other hand, detained Sen. Leila De Lima also pointed out the lack of competition in the council election.

“If re-election of the Philippines proves anything, it just means Cayetano and his ilk are good in the ‘numbers game’ and in playing up the dynamics at the UN General Assembly,” De Lima said.

“It should not escape us that for the first time in the UNHRC’s history, the five (5) voting regions, including Asia, had only submitted as many candidates as there were seats available, thus removing competition, a move seen by some in the international human rights community as a ‘mockery of the electoral exercise’,”  she added.

De Lima said that the recent re-election cannot cover up the “deteriorating human rights situation” in the country.

The former justice secretary believes that amid the killings related to the “drug mayhem” in the country, the Philippines does not deserve a seat in the UNHRC.

“A government sitting on a monstrous pile of corpses of more than 22,000 mostly poor Filipinos should have no right preaching human rights and taking part in an important global institution tasked to address situations of gross rights violations across the globe,” De Lima said.

“More than winning a seat for the government at the UNHRC, what the Filipinos really need and deserve is a place among the civilized nations, a seat at the theatre of humanity where the inherent, universal and inalienable dignity and equality of all human persons are fully respected and truly protected,” she further stated.

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