Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, the Philippines’ Foreign Minister today said that the country’s fight against corruption, illegal drugs and crimes under the new President has been widely misunderstood.
“Our actions have grabbed both the national headlines and international attention for all the wrong reasons,” Secretary for Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay told the Assembly’s annual debate.
Last month, two UN-appointed human rights experts expressed concern about measures instituted in the country to crack down on drug offenders.
Mr. Yasay stressed that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who was elected five months ago, has declared that the rule of law and respect for due process shall prevail at all times.
Due to corruption "in high and low places," the Philippines for far too long has been unable to fully address the worsening crime situation and the prevalence of illegal drugs. “Our people recognize the peril these evils pose to our development and our democracy,” he said.
Corruption has become the breeding ground for illegal drug trade, which seriously threatens the country's peace and order, and impedes sustainable development. “It has torn apart many of our communities, destroyed our families, and snuffed out the hopes and dreams of our people – young and old – for a bright future,” he stated.
For this reason, the new Government is determined to free the Philippines from corruption and other stagnating practices, and eradicate illicit drugs and its manufacture, distribution and use in the country, he said, noting that the President enjoys an approval rating of 92 per cent from the Filipino people.
“Our campaign to rid the country of criminality, lawlessness and disorder, including our all-out war against illicit drugs, will remain strictly in accordance with the Philippine Constitution, the international norms and human rights treaties, and covenants we are party to,” he stated.
“We have not and will never empower our law enforcement agents to shoot-to-kill any individual suspected of drug crimes. And yet, under our established rules of engagement, our police have the right to defend themselves when their lives are threatened,” he explained.
“Extrajudicial killings have no place in our society and in our criminal justice system,” he added.
Turning to implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he noted that the Philippines continues to enhance the delivery and quality of basic social services to its people, based on a human approach to development and governance. The Philippines is among the 22 pioneer countries that volunteered at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) to share its initiatives in the first year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
As one of the most disaster-prone and vulnerable countries to the adverse effects of climate change, his country reiterated a call for climate justice and the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities in the implementation of obligations under the Paris Agreement.
On territorial disputes in the South China Sea, he said the Arbitral Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague handed down a decision that has upheld the primacy of international law as the cornerstone for a rules-based regional and international order. “The Arbitral Award, which is final and binding on all parties, is a clearly established fact and is now part of international jurisprudence in the maritime domain,” he said.
“We must not overlook the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities, maintaining freedom of navigation, the full and effective implementation of the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) and the adoption of an effective Code of Conduct (COC),” he added.