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Philippines says U.N. rights council seat vindicates its policies

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MANILA (Reuters) – Granting the Philippines a fresh three-year term on the U.N. Human Rights Council has vindicated President Rodrigo Duterte and shown his detractors to be “morally corrupt”, its foreign minister said on Saturday.

Human rights activists say Duterte’s crackdown on drugs after taking office in June 2016 – since when the police have killed more than 4,800 people – made his government unfit for a seat at the body.

But the Philippines was re-elected to the 47-seat council by secret ballot at the U.N. General Assembly on Friday.

“We are really greatly honoured as this is a vindication that fake news and baseless accusations have no place in modern-day human rights discussions,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement.

“We thank human rights advocates around the world but also condemn a few who are morally corrupt and who use human rights for political and financial gain,” he said.

The Philippines garnered 165 out of 193 votes, with one abstention, to win a fresh term beginning Jan. 1, 2019, according to a U.N. statement on its website.

Duterte is the subject of two complaints before the International Criminal Court that accuse him of crimes against humanity over the drug-related killings. Human Rights Watch said ahead of the vote that the Philippines’ “egregious” rights record made it unfit to be on the council.

One of Duterte’s fiercest critics, Congressman Gary Alejano, described the Philippines’ re-election to the body as a “big irony”.

“A country that has numerous cases of human rights violations has no place in the Council,” he said in a statement.

Duterte’s government has denied that the police exterminate drug users, saying all those killed were dealers who had resisted arrest.

Last month, Duterte appeared to admit responsibility for extrajudicial killings, but his spokesman said the remarks had been “playful” and were misinterpreted.

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; additional reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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