Cayetano invites Iceland counterpart to visit, see HR situation in PH

MANILA Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has invited his counterpart in Iceland to visit and observe the human rights situation in the Philippines, following the latter's remarks about the Duterte administration's campaign against illegal drugs before the high-level segment of the 37th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.

In his remarks before the Council, Iceland Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson urged the Philippines to allow UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard to visit without any precondition or limitation so she could conduct an objective assessment of the human rights situation in the country.

He said Iceland takes pride in leading 40 countries in calling out the Philippines over alleged human rights violations committed in the course of its anti-illegal drugs program.

Cayetano met with Thordarson on the sidelines of the UNHRC event on Tuesday, during which he conveyed his "serious disappointment" with the latter's statement.

After explaining why the Philippines has to undertake the campaign against illegal drugs, I told Foreign Minister Thordarson not to take my word for it and that it would be best if he could come and visit so he could see the situation for himself, the foreign affairs chief said.

Citing the strong bilateral ties between Manila and Reykjavik, he told Thordarson the Philippines would have appreciated it if Iceland first reached out to hear the country's side before arriving at such a conclusion.

I am sure your society also has its own challenges but if our situation were reversed, you would feel the same way we feel right now, Cayetano said as he shared with his counterpart how the government's campaign against illegal drugs "has been politicized by critics of President Rodrigo Duterte".

Cayetano stressed that Manila actually shares Iceland's recommendations for the conduct of an independent and impartial assessment of the human rights situation in the Philippines.

The Philippine position, he said, is actually not new as Manila is always willing to cooperate with the UN.

Despite the openness to receive independent experts, however, "Manila will still not be able to accept Callamard because of her biased and antagonistic stance towards the Philippine Government," he added.

Ambassador Evan Garcia, Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, who was present during the meeting, said Cayetano requested the meeting with Thordarson to allow him to see the country's perspective.

Secretary Cayetano's demeanor during the bilateral meeting with Iceland clearly demonstrates the positive attitude of the Philippines towards meaningful and mutually beneficial engagement on the human rights situation in the Philippines, he said.

Source: Philippine News Agency

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