Duterte’s terms for UN rapporteur unacceptable; visit is canceled
The Philippines has canceled a trip next year by the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings to look into the rising death toll in the government’s war on drugs.
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. was quoted by Reuters as saying on Wednesday that the United Nations could not pursue its investigation because special rapporteur Agnes Callamard had declined to accept the conditions set by the Duterte administration.
“They cannot come,” Yasay told reporters in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, where he accompanied President Duterte for a two-day state visit.
“If they will not comply with the conditions of our President regarding their visit to the Philippines to validate their claims, then the trip will not push through. They cannot come here,” Yasay stressed.
Yasay said there were no indications Callamard would comply with Duterte’s guidelines anyway.
He did not say what the government’s guidelines were, although Duterte had said he wanted to challenge the UN rapporteur to a public debate.
When the Inquirer sought clarification in Singapore on Thursday, Yasay, however, said that Callamard was still welcome to visit the country.
Yasay, who is part of President Duterte’s delegation to the two-day state visit to Singapore, said in a statement:
“We have not canceled it. It is up to Callamard to agree and comply with the conditions imposed by President Duterte in inviting her to visit the Philippines.”
Mr. Duterte has included specific conditions to add to the terms of reference for the visit, which are: the public presentation in the Philippines of the findings of the special rapporteur and the opportunity, in person and in the presence of the special rapporteur and the media, for him to publicly ask questions on the report and present additional information or clarifications.
It is customary that when the UN special rapporteur accepts an invitation for a country visit, the terms of reference are negotiated, with guarantees of free movement, security and nonreprisal, and includes the scope, duration, places and persons or organizations to be covered.
Debate with Duterte
In the earlier interview in Phnom Penh, Yasay indicated that the Duterte administration would insist that Callamard debate with the president, or there would be no UN investigation of extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs.
Yasay pointed out that the proposed visit of the UN special rapporteur was upon the invitation of the Philippine government, which was subject to conditions.
Should the debate push through, Callamard would be under oath and Mr. Duterte would ask questions on the “authenticity” of the results of her inquiry, he said.
Callamard, who has received the government’s invitation, set her own conditions for her visit. Callamard asked for free, confidential and unsupervised interviews with victims, their families, legal representatives, detainees and civil society representatives.
She also sought unrestricted access to all regions and places of detention and facilities.
She also said that as per the terms of reference, she would hold a high-level debriefing with the government to discuss her preliminary findings and present her end-of-mission statement.
Callamard would also hold a press conference to present her initial observations.
She had intended to visit during the first quarter of next year. According to her briefing note, Callamard’s visit will be a fact-finding mission, not a criminal or judicial proceeding.
Since Duterte took office on July 1, police say more than 2,000 people have died in anti-narcotics police operations, with another 3,000 deaths, caused by motorcycle-riding masked men and by vigilante groups, under investigation.
Yasay said the government must be given the opportunity to question the rapporteur because the Philippines had already been maligned by allegations of extrajudicial killings.
In its October letter inviting the UN rapporteur, the government said it was “entitled to know the motive for the investigation, and why the focus is on the Philippines, when there are other nations responsible for the death of innocent and defenseless individuals elsewhere in the world.”
Duterte has lashed out at US President Barack Obama, the European Union and UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon for criticizing the government’s antidrug campaign. —WITH REPORTS FROM JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE AND LEILA B. SALAVERRIA
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