THE Philippines yesterday vowed to continue to uphold human rights in carrying out its responsibility to
protect Filipinos from the dangers of illegal drugs, criminality, and terrorism.
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano emphasized this in his statement during the High-Level
Debate at the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly where he also called on countries
critical of Manila’s ongoing campaign against illegal drugs to respect Philippine sovereignty.
“The Philippines integrates the human rights agenda in its development initiatives for the
purpose of protecting everyone, especially the most vulnerable, from lawlessness, violence, and
anarchy,” Cayetano said in his first appearance on the world stage.
“Security and human rights are not incompatible. Indeed, the first is our duty to the other,”
the Secretary said adding “Without security, the most basic human rights, to life and safety, are
constantly under attack—from terrorism, criminality, drug and human trafficking.”
In his statement, which was delivered a day after the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva
unanimously adopted the Third Universal Periodic Review Report of the Philippines, Cayetano reiterated
Manila’s commitment to its human rights obligations under the international treaties it has ratified.
According to the Secretary, it is the duty of any state to protect human life, human dignity,
and human rights from aggression by other states, terrorism from non-state actors, and the destruction
of societies and families from criminal networks trafficking in drugs, people and arms.
The Secretary said the Philippine Government’s campaign against illegal drugs is a necessary
instrument to preserve and protect the human rights of all Filipinos and was never an instrument to
violate human rights.
Cayetano said the reason President Duterte launched his campaign against the illegal drug trade
is to save lives, preserve families, protect communities and stop the country from sliding into a
“The very principle of the responsibility to protect must encompass first and foremost the vast
majority of peaceful law-abiding people who must be protected from those who are not,” Secretary
Cayetano said. “It is for their safety and sustenance that states exist, and for which governments and
leaders are responsible.”
At the same time, he told countries critical of Manila’s campaign against illegal drugs to
respect Philippine sovereignty and not tell it what to do.
“The Philippines expects its sovereignty to be respected, and that its democratically-elected
government’s assessment of threats and how to go about addressing them shall be accorded preeminence
among nations—or at least the benefit of their doubt,” said Cayetano, who is representing President
Rodrigo Duterte in the annual diplomatic event.
The Secretary also cautioned other UN member-states against misinformation about its anti-
illegal drugs campaign.
“Accusation before investigation is not proof. Nor is it fair. Abuses have occurred and mistakes
have been made, tragic ones for sure,” he said. “While one abuse is one too many, still the abuses are
far less than the imaginary numbers of partisan accusers and publicity seekers.”
“We should never tolerate human rights abuses but neither should we tolerate misinformation,
fake news on and politicization of human rights, for these undermine our collective efforts as the
United Nations to uphold the universality of human rights and dignity of human life,” Cayetano said.