By: Reyshimar Arguelles

THE United Nations Human Rights Council voted unanimously to investigate alleged extrajudicial killings or EJKs in the Philippines, and boy did this trigger the Duterte administration! But it’s not that difficult to admit that we had seen this coming from a mile away.

Despite its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, the Philippines was not let off the hook for its human rights record exacerbated by its tough-talking President’s diatribes. The War on Drugs is going strong as the death toll continues to mount and public support for the three-year-old Duterte administration remains stable.

Sure enough, EJKs continue to be an important point of attack for the opposition, which is currently mending its wounds after a disastrous midterm election last May. The government, on the other hand, has consistently refused to acknowledge the killings as state-sanctioned and, at the same time, vowed to paint the streets red with the blood of pushers, addicts, and kingpins.

President Duterte was true to his word when in his State of the Nation Address last year, he warned that the drug war would become “relentless and chilling.” We don’t have to dig deep just to get the gist of what he had said. And there’s nothing that the international community can do but let Duterte have his way with the country’s peace and order situation.

But seeing all the bodies labelled as collateral damage and the fact that drug shipments are still arriving in spite of the administration’s violent reputation when it comes to the drug trade, we couldn’t help but question how things actually play out in the President’s own world.

Duterte at one point even admitted that the drug war is unwinnable, giving human rights groups and the international community an even more compelling reason to push for an independent investigation into its efficacy and the toll it has dealt on the public.

The resolution filed by Iceland (of all countries) would be instrumental in underscoring accountability. With the support of 18 other countries, the investigation will push the Philippines into looking a little closer at what actually transpires on its own turf, where statistics are as relative as the moral compass of those who try desperately to defend the excesses of the anti-drug agenda.

While some welcome the Iceland resolution as the start of an arduous journey in making the government own up to its EJK records, there are others who see this as nothing but a fruitless attempt to bathe the government in mud. And yet, there are others who have taken offense over the way the issue itself has been molded into a politically-charged crusade at the behest of organizations that operate hidden agendas.

But what’s sad about these people defending the Duterte administration is that they’re actually doing it a great disservice by saying things detached from the kind of reality they’re facing. We can hear them blabber about taking the moral high ground and berate those who have the gall to point out contradictions in what the government is saying and doing.

We can only hear this form of rebuke from the Palace where spokesperson Salvador Panelo referred to the resolution as “grotesquely one-sided, outrageously narrow, and maliciously partisan.” He goes on to call out the UNHRC for disrespecting the country’s sovereignty. But how could a government talk about sovereignty when it has just allowed a hegemon like China to freely catch fish and build artificial islands within and around Philippine waters?

Panelo also stressed how the resolution failed to get unanimously approved by the UNHRC as it didn’t even gain the support of a majority, quite like how the President cultivated 16 million or only 38.5% of the vote in the 2016 elections. Going by Panelo’s logic, this should have rendered the administration’s legitimacy questionable. But of course, this only shows the incredible lengths that administration supporters will take just to keep the drug war rolling and downplay the importance of other equally critical issues.

The double standards are mind-numbingly disturbing, but Panelo’s statements were only the icing to the cake prepared by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin. The country’s top diplomat threatens those who approved the resolution with “far-reaching consequences” should the international body pushes through with its inquiry. He singles out those countries who are treating the Philippines with “disrespect or acts of bad faith” by meddling in the government’s anti-drug policy, the rationale of which is anchored on the need for law-abiding citizens to cooperate with authorities lest they be branded as suspects.

It’s clear that Locsin is only doing his job in protecting the Philippines from embarrassment. Then again, what is there to be embarrassed about if the government really doesn’t consider the practice of EJK as official policy?

Putting up defenses, refusing to cooperate, and, instead, labelling an inquiry into the country’s human rights situation as a sentence will only validate everyone’s suspicions right from the very beginning.