De Lima urges DFA to reconsider PH position on rights abuses in Myanmar

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to reconsider the Philippine government’s hardline position on the human rights abuses and atrocities committed against Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar.

De Lima, a known human rights and social justice champion here and abroad, filed Senate Resolution No. 158 urging the DFA to reconsider its position on all United Nations (UN) resolutions addressing the human rights abuses against minorities in Myanmar.

“The Philippine government, particularly the Executive Department, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, should reconsider its position on the ongoing human rights crisis affecting the Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar,” she said.

“[The government should] support international responses [f]or the protection of human rights of the Rohingya and other groups, for the facilitation of justice for the victims and punishment of the perpetrators and their masterminds, and for the democratic transition of government institutions in Myanmar, especially its military,” she added.

In filing SR No.158, De Lima noted how the Duterte administration has exhibited what she deemed as an alarming pattern of voting against UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolutions concerning human rights abuses in Myanmar.

During the UNHRC session last September, the Philippines and China voted “No” to the overwhelmingly adopted resolution urging the Myanmar government to sustain democratic transition by bringing all national institutions, including the military, under a democratically elected civilian government.

Before this rejection, the Philippines, along with China and Cuba, also rejected a resolution condemning continuing human rights abuses in Myanmar in the UNHRC session held last March.

During the UNHRC’s session in September 2018, De Lima further noted, the Philippine government, along with China and Burundi, also voted against the setting-up of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar to collect and preserve evidence of crimes for possible use in future criminal proceedings.

Likewise, the Philippine government did not support the establishment of a fact-finding mission that was created to look into the cases of gross human rights violations in Myanmar during the session of the UNHRC in March 2017.

In defending the votes at the UNHRC, the Philippine government officials have claimed that the issues in Myanmar are “complex” and “politicized.”

The lady Senator from Bicol pointed out that the Philippine government cannot continue to discredit and disregard the documented cases of gross violations against human rights of the Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar.

“Regardless of partisan interests of Member States at the UNHRC, one cannot simply turn a blind eye to the magnitude of atrocities in Myanmar, including possible crimes against humanity, which should be of paramount concern to the international community,” she said.

It may be recalled that a UN-backed Independent International Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar has found sufficient basis to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior military officials for grave crimes, including genocide, in Rakhine State.

“Despite indubitable evidence of atrocities and human rights abuses, the Philippine government has opted to ignore the facts and disregarded its treaty commitments by refusing to support a resolution before the UNHRC addressing the human rights situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar,” De Lima lamented.

De Lima argued that the government is expected to uphold at all times the “time-honored values of the Filipino people of respecting the inalienable dignity and worth of every human person, of upholding the universality of human rights, and of standing up for justice and freedom.”

During her stint as justice secretary, De Lima put forth the idea of sending ships to rescue 3,000 Rohingya refugees from the sea and provide them shelters as a humanitarian measure to avert a humanitarian crisis in the region in May 2015.

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