Sen. Leila de Lima and two Catholic bishops have blasted the government for voting against a UN draft resolution calling for full and free access to humanitarian aid for thousands of minority Rohingya in Myanmar who are suffering
violence and persecution.
The Philippines was one of the 10 nations that last week opposed the resolution, which also called on Myanmar to grant full citizenship rights to members of the Muslim minority who had fled to nearby Bangladesh to escape abuse.
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday said that being this year’s chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) precluded the Philippines from supporting the resolution, which had “very tough” words against Myanmar, a fellow Asean member.
“The situation on the ground is, by voting no or by abstaining, our humanitarian people can come in,” Cayetano said, adding that Manila had to consider the safety of aid workers.
“If we weren’t chair of Asean, probably ‘abstain’ would be a consideration. Or if we’re not in Asean at all, ‘yes’ would be considered,” Cayetano said in an interview with ANC television.
From ‘no’ to ‘abstain’
The Philippine UN mission is still deliberating a suggestion by Ambassador Teodoro Locsin Jr., the country’s permanent representative to the United Nations, to change the vote from “no” to “abstain,” according to Cayetano.
In a statement on Monday, De Lima, who is detained on drug charges, said the government’s “no” vote was not a diplomatic move but an act of fear that it, too, would be held accountable for the thousands of deaths from President Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.
“It fears that a mirror will be held to its face, and it will be made to see how monstrously it has been treating its own people. It knows that it has lost any moral ascendancy to call out state abuses being committed against its own people,” she said.
“It deeply disturbs and disappoints me that we have basically turned our back to our own history as a nation of being a staunch defender of human life,” she said, citing the Philippines’ record of providing shelter to thousands of Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s, and the 1,500 Jews persecuted by Nazi Germany during World War II.
Two years ago, the Philippines expressed its willingness to admit and shelter Rohingya Muslims if their boats landed on its shores, she added.
More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since August as refugees escape a military crackdown, which has been widely criticized as “ethnic cleansing.”
Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes on Monday said he was “disappointed and ashamed” at the Philippines’ vote.
“This opposition expressed by our officials is an echo of the lack of respect or even recognition of basic human rights of this present administration, a very dark mark of our nation which will be recorded in the history of our country, as bad as the memory of the Marcos dictatorship!” he said.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo agreed.
‘Stand for the rights’
“The countries who oppose international communities to stand for the rights of the Rohingya Muslims are themselves human rights [violators] against their own people, including the Philippines,” he said.
Last week, 135 UN members voted in support of the draft resolution, which also urged Myanmar to grant full citizenship to the Rohingya Muslims.
The 10-nation Asean itself was divided.
Three predominantly Muslim members—Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia—voted yes, while five members—Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines and Vietnam—voted no. Singapore and Thailand abstained.