Marcos ready for ‘high level of accountability,’ UN official says

Basilio Sepe
2022.06.10
Manila
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Marcos ready for ‘high level of accountability,’ UN official says Philippine President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (right) meets with Gustavo Gonzales, the United Nations resident coordinator in the Philippines, at Marcos’ headquarters in Mandaluyong City, June 10, 2022.
Courtesy Bongbong Marcos Media Bureau

Philippine President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. indicated that his administration would work with the United Nations and be open to a “high-level of accountability” on human rights, the U.N.’s representative in Manila said after they met Friday.   

On June 30, Marcos will take over the reins of government from President Rodrigo Duterte, his political ally who leaves behind a trail of alleged human rights abuses as he exits office. Duterte faces a potential International Criminal Court probe into thousands of killings carried out during his administration’s war on drugs since 2016. Duterte’s daughter is Marcos’ running mate and the vice president-elect.    

Gustavo Gonzales, the U.N. representative to the Philippines, said he paid a courtesy call to Southeast Asia’s newest leader on Friday, during which they discussed human rights, among other issues. The president-elect’s news bureau released photos but no statement after the meeting.

Gonzales told reporters he discussed “technical cooperation” with Marcos, noting that this was already embodied in a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution. 

“This is the topic that he immediately raised and he mentioned along with the importance of ensuring high-level of accountability in terms of human rights,” Gonzales told reporters shortly after the meeting.

“It means the U.N. and the government need to work together in addressing some concerns on human rights,” Gonzalez said, adding Marcos is “very much interested, for example, in ensuring a consultation for the nomination of the new Commission of Human Rights.” 

The U.N. official said Marcos promised to conduct “a number of consultations to ensure the best way of supporting the human rights agenda,” but did not elaborate.

While Marcos stressed his commitment to continuing Duterte’s war on drugs “within the framework of the law,” Gonzales said, they discussed the possibility of the incoming Philippine leader attending the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September. Duterte never traveled to the U.S. during his six-year term in office.

“This U.N. General Assembly meeting will be the first time that President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will be in front of a number of heads of state. This will be a great and historic opportunity for the president and for the Philippines to share the new vision and the new challenges,” Gonzalez said. 

There have been questions about whether Marcos Jr. would visit the U.S., the Philippines’ key political and defense ally, because a district court in Hawaii has a standing contempt order against him in connection to human rights abuses linked to his late father’s regime.

Ferdinand E. Marcos ruled the Philippines with an iron fist for two decades, when thousands of people who opposed his rule were killed or went missing. The elder Marcos was ousted in 1986 by a “people power” revolt that saw him fleeing to exile with his family to Hawaii, where he died three years later.  

His widow, Imelda Marcos, and their three children were allowed to return home and have rebuilt the family’s political fortunes. His sister, Imee Marcos, is a senator who has said that her brother’s victory was a “second chance” for the family to clear their name.

“They have filed many cases against us, on top of their criticism and oppression. Our family really suffered for the past almost four decades,” Imee Marcos told reporters when Congress formally announced her brother’s election to the nation’s top office.

The meeting came a day after a similar one with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman who said Marcos could visit the U.S. without fear of arrest.

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