The European Union (EU)’s top human rights envoy has expressed concern on the direction of the development on human rights in the country, EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen said on Wednesday.
Jessen confirmed that EU Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambridinis had visited the Philippines in November to look into the human rights situation in the country.
“He was here partly because of the discussion that has been on human rights,” Jessen told reporters at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum.
“So I welcome the visit very much, it was a good visit, it was successful. Of course he has seen worse, he’s seen much worse, but I think he was probably a bit of concerned about the direction of the development on human rights,” he added.
Lambridinis visited the country as part of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean)-EU second human rights dialogue. The Philippines was last year’s chair of the Asean.
Jessen said that the findings would be part of the way EU “looks at the Philippines.”
In its 2016 annual report on human rights and democracy published last year, the EU noted that human rights situation in the Philippines has “considerably worsened” in the second half of 2016 as a result of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody crackdown against illegal drugs.
“The second half of the year was marked by a serious deterioration in respect for the right to life, due process, and the rule of law,” EU noted in its Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World in 2016.
Duterte, meanwhile, has criticized the EU for allegedly disrespecting the Philippines’ sovereignty following a group of European parliamentarians’ denouncement of human rights violations in the country.
The parliamentarians’ criticisms prompted Duterte to decline all aid grants from the powerful bloc, saying it was “very stupid” for some officials to talk about it “as if it is a matter of survival of our country.”
Jessen maintained that human rights are an integral part of economic development and should not be seen, especially in the Philippines, as a “negative word.”
“Again, human rights are not something that against the people in the Philippines. It’s something that protects people, it also protects the government, in my view, so it should not be seen as a negative word, in fact, it’s a very positive development,” he added.
Jessen said the EU would push for the institutionalizing of human rights dialogue between the bloc and the Philippines.