Philippines eyes withdrawal from UN Human Rights Council

Marje Pelayo   •   July 15, 2019   •   2258

MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. hinted on the possible withdrawal of the Philippines from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNCHR).

Locsin posted the idea on Saturday (July 13) when a netizen inquired about how the Philippine representation in Iceland reacted to the Council’s approval of Iceland’s resolution seeking to probe into the human rights situation in the Philippines in relation to the Duterte administration’s drug war.

The resolution garnered 18 affirmative votes, 14 negative and 15 abstentions.

 “No embassy in Iceland. Nor does Iceland have an embassy here. Iceland took the place of the US after it withdrew from the Human Rights Council. I think we need to follow America more,” Locsin said.

The United States withdrew from the UNHRC on June 19, 2018 in protest to what it claimed as ‘chronic bias’ against Israel and for allowing human rights violators and abusers as members.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley then described the human rights body as ‘hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.”

“For too long, the human rights council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias,” Haley said during the official announcement of U.S. withdrawal from UNHRC.

In October 2018, the Philippines lobbied for a seat at the UNHRC and won after receiving 165 votes of 192 cast by UN member states.

SWS: Pinoys’ trust in China falls to ‘bad’, remains ‘excellent’ in US

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 21, 2019

The Filipinos’ trust in China has fallen from ‘poor’ to ‘bad’, based on the third quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey (SWS).

The net trust for China fell by 9 points from -24 in June 2019 to -33 in September 2019.

“The September 2019 Social Weather Survey was conducted from September 27-30, 2019 using face-to-face interviews of 1,800 adults (18 years old and above) nationwide,” according to the SWS survey report.

Meanwhile, the United States net trust remain ‘excellent’ at +72 in September 2019, it has little to no change compared to the +73 in June 2019.

Other countries like Australia and Japan stay at a ‘very good’ net trust rating, +37 and +35 respectively in September 2019.

Vietnam fell from ‘moderate’ net trust to ‘neutral’ with a net zero-rating in September 2019 from a +13 rating in June 2019.—AAC

China condemns approval of US bill on Hong Kong human rights

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2019

China on Wednesday condemned the approval by the United States Senate of a Hong Kong human rights and democracy bill, which could serve to punish officials that undermine the rights of the inhabitants of the special administrative region.

The Senate unanimously approved the Hong Kong human rights and democracy bill on Tuesday, which could empower the US government to sanction officials responsible for rights violations and provide for annual review as to whether Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to qualify for special trade considerations.

The House of Representatives approved its own version last month and the two will have to work out differences before the legislation can be sent to President Donald Trump for consideration.

China’s government reacted angrily to the news.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang in a statement said: “This act neglects facts and truth, applies double standards and blatantly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s other internal affairs.

“It is in serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations. China condemns and firmly opposes it.”

In a separate statement, the foreign ministry said it had summoned US Embassy official William Klein to lodge a formal complaint.

Beijing warned of reprisals if Trump pushes the policy through.

“The issue Hong Kong faces is not about human rights or democracy, but about stopping violence and chaos, upholding rule of law and restoring order as soon as possible,” Geng said.

The spokesperson reiterated China’s support to the Hong Kong government and police “in enforcing law, and support the judicial organs in punishing violent criminals, protecting the life and property of citizens and safeguarding prosperity and stability in Hong Kong.”

China believes the approval of the bill exposes the US’ “hidden political agenda” and “paints criminal moves as pursuit of human rights and democracy when the truth is violent criminals rampantly smashed facilities, set fire, bullied and attacked innocent civilians, forcibly occupied university campuses, mobbed young students, and assaulted police officers in a premeditated way.”

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, young anti-government activists were staying put inside the Polytechnic University campus, as their bitter standoff with the city’s police force entered its fourth day.

Between Monday night and Wednesday morning, about 800 people stranded in the Polytechnic University had left the campus in the harbor-side district of Hung Hom in East Kowloon. Among them, 300 were under the age of 18. Exactly how many more are still inside is unclear, but Hong Kong’s Commercial Radio put the number at around 100.

It is believed that hundreds of people who have left the campus — many of them students — have been arrested, although the police have yet to announce the exact number.

Shortly before noon Wednesday, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security John Lee spoke to journalists, saying that all those inside PolyU would be arrested for rioting regardless of the purpose of their assembly on the campus.

In Hong Kong, rioting carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. A law scholar who visited the activists Monday night told them they could not be charged for rioting so long as there was not enough evidence against them.

The siege, which has been keeping many Hongkongers on edge, began in the evening Sunday, a violent day in which anti-government protesters, armed with countless Molotov cocktails and bricks, were locked in violent street battles with riot police who fired tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds at crowds.

On Wednesday morning, some netizens called for people to paralyze the city’s traffic. Some activists blocked the doors of underground trains to prevent them from moving, while services at some metro stations were suspended but later resumed.

Demonstrations in Hong Kong began in June following a controversial extradition bill, since withdrawn by the government, but have mutated into a movement seeking to improve Hong Kong’s democratic mechanisms and opposition to Beijing’s perceived interference.

The demonstrations have turned into a movement seeking to improve democracy in the city-state and safeguard the region’s partial autonomy from Beijing. EFE -EPA

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US says it’s ready to deter N Korea’s ‘bad behavior’ amid Pyongyang pressure

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2019

Manila – The United States Defense Secretary said Tuesday that Washington was prepared to deter North Korea’s “bad behavior,” after Pyongyang announced it was not interested in holding more “fruitless” summits with his country.

Mark Esper, on his first official visit to the Philippines, made the announcement during a press conference in Manila after North Korea rejected Washington’s request to close the Sunday deal US President Donald Trump offered on Twitter.

Esper said he did not want to make forecasts about the future of the negotiations so far and prefers to move “one step at a time.” However, he warned Pyongyang and said the US is “prepared to deter North Korea’s bad behavior and if that fails we’re prepared to fight tonight.”

Kim Kye-gwan, an important regime figure and ex-North Korean vice-foreign minister, said Monday that there had hardly been improvements in the countries’ bilateral relations after three summits between his leader Kim Jong-un and Trump and urged Washington to end its “hostile policy” toward Pyongyang.

North Korea issued Tuesday a third statement in 24 hours, urging the US to stop what it called a hostile policy and proposed concessions to resume denuclearization talks.

The latest statement, released by state-owned KCNA agency and signed by the country’s chief negotiator in the disarmament negotiations, Kim Myong-gil, said talks were “impossible” if Washington “makes a bold decision to drop the hostile policy” against the regime.

Kim referred to a recent US offer to hold a fresh work meeting in December, which took place through Sweden – a country that has actively mediated between them for years.

The statement said Sweden no longer needed to work for the talks between the US and North Korea, given that the slow progress was “not for lack of communication channel or mediator.”

The recent statements by the regime calling for more concessions come after South Korea and the US announced the cancellation of imminent joint military drills, which the North considers a rehearsal to invade its territory.

The cancellation aims to give impetus to the denuclearization process, which has been blocked since the failed February summit in Hanoi, where Washington considered Pyongyang’s offer to dismantle its nuclear assets insufficient and refused to lift economic sanctions.

Both sides held a working-level meeting in October in Stockholm but it ended with North Korea accusing Washington of offering nothing new and holding onto its “hostile policy.”

Pyongyang has said the White House has until year’s end to consider its proposals and experts believe the regime could conduct new intermediate-range ballistic-missiles weapons tests from January if no progress is made.

After visiting South Korea and Thailand, Esper arrived Monday night in the Philippines and met Filipino counterpart Delfin Lorenzana at Camp Aguinaldo military base, where they discussed the situation in the South China Sea and revision of a Mutual Defense Treaty in 1951.

Esper also visited the Manila American Cemetery, where he paid respects to the US soldiers who died during the World War II in the Philippines.

The US secretary of defense is set to visit Vietnam, where he will conclude his Asia tour. EFE-EPA

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