De Lima dares Duterte to prove readiness to accept Rohingya refugees

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Rohingya refugees. (Photo courtesy bbc.com)

MANILA, Philippines — Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has dared on Wednesday President Rodrigo Duterte to follow through his recent pronouncement of accepting Rohingya Muslims who are facing grave situations in the Rakhine State of Myanmar, despite his contradicting statements in the past.

De Lima, who once chaired the Commission on Human Rights, said Duterte should redeem himself from his previous policies regarding the welfare of the Rohingya Muslims, which contradict his most recent pronouncement in Cotabato City last month.

“Kung talagang may malasakit si Ginoong Duterte sa mga Rohingya refugees, totohanin nya ang sinabi niyang pagkupkop at pagtulong sa kanila. Hindi salita at pangako kundi ang agarang pagkupkop sa kanila ang dapat katuparan,” she said.

“If not, these statements will just be another empty rhetoric which cannot redeem him and his administration from past policy decisions detrimental to the Rohingyas, including the tragic ‘No’ vote of the Philippines against a UN resolution condemning human rights violations against them,” she added.

During its 42nd regular session in Switzerland last Sept. 26, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution supporting justice and accountability for Rohingya Muslims and other minorities who have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine State to escape atrocities committed by state security forces.

Of the 46 member states that voted, only the Philippines and China rejected the UNHRC resolution with 37 countries voting in favor and seven others abstaining. It was the third time that the Duterte administration rejected a UN measure on the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.

“His only concern then is not to offend his friends in Beijing, which, not surprisingly, is also facing ethnic cleansing allegations against their Muslim minorities,” the former justice secretary pointed out.

“Huwag nating paasahin ang mga lubos na nangangailangan at pagkatapos ay kabaligtaran ang gagawin natin. Hindi biro ang kanilang pinagdaanan at pagdurusa, kaya mas kailangan nila ang tulong sa lalong madaling panahon,” she added.

Last October, De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 158 urging the Philippine government to reconsider its position opposing the UNHRC resolution. The resolution has been languishing at the committee level.

When she was then justice secretary, De Lima proposed that the Philippines, along with fellow ASEAN member-states, should send rescue ships to help the Rohingya Muslims or “boat people” still stranded in the seas, and save their lives.

Since 2017, almost 800,000 people of Myanmar’s Muslim minority had fled to neighboring Bangladesh from the Rakhine State to escape brutal persecution instigated by Myanmar military forces. (Stacy Ang/JGo/CurrentPH)

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