Palace hits Callamard's unannounced trip to PH | SunStar

Palace hits Callamard's unannounced trip to PH

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Palace hits Callamard's unannounced trip to PH

Friday, May 05, 2017

MALACANANG questioned Friday the unannounced visit of United Nations (UN) special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard in the country and hinted that a Philippine delegation would raise the matter before the UN.

"We are aware that Dr. Callamard is currently in the Philippines and we are disappointed that, in not contacting our government in advance of this visit, she has sent a clear signal that she is not interested in getting an objective perspective on the issues that are the focus of her responsibility," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

In a speech delivered before health professionals in Davao City last Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte assumed that Callamard, a critic of his brutal war on narcotics trade, was in the country to look into the drug-related deaths.

Callamard reportedly arrived in Manila to attend a two-day drug policy forum co-sponsored by the Commission on Human Rights and human rights group Free Legal Assistance Group at the University of the Philippines-Diliman in Quezon City.

The Philippine government earlier sent an invitation for Callamard to investigate the alleged human rights violations in the Duterte administration's war on drugs.

The invitation stated that Callamard could only begin the investigation, if she agrees to the Duterte's conditions to have public debate with Duterte, be questioned by the President, and take an oath to confirm her intention to be truthful.

Callamard had said the conditions set are inconsistent with the Special Rapporteur Code of Conduct and Terms of Reference for country visits.

Abella insisted that the Philippine government was expecting that Callamard would accept the invitation to carry out her mandate as UN special rapporteur “in a manner that was objective and fair to all perspectives on this important [anti-drug war] issue.”

"The fact that we issued an invitation to Dr. Callamard to visit the Philippines makes it clear that we respected her as a professional and we very much wanted her to see the situation on the ground first-hand and engage in an exchange of views with officials in our government to understand our position on the issue of human rights and the progress being made in the Philippines," Abella said.

"The fact that Dr. Callamard did not respond to our invitation showed that she would not be approaching her review of allegations concerning our country objectively or comprehensively," he added.

Duterte's spokesman said Callamard seemed to refuse to know the truth, as she arrived in Manila at the time a Philippine delegation is ready to dispute the allegations of state-sponsored killings under the Duterte administration.

The Philippine delegation, which will be joined by Senator Alan Peter Cayetano and Senior Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs Menardo Guevarra, is set to defend Duterte's drug war before the UN in Geneva, Switzerland.

The UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review will look into the Philippines’ human rights record on May 8.

Abella said Callamard should have met the Philippines’ representative in Geneva, had she really wanted to find out the truth in the killings of thousands of suspected drug personalities in the country.

He added that the Philippine delegation would raise concerns to UN over latest move of Callamard.

"Our position is very clear: if Dr. Callamard is committed to ensuring due process to our government and a truly objective assessment of our record on an issue of tremendous importance to our nation, she should be in Geneva meeting with our representatives,” Abella said.

"Her actions since then, and the circumstances surrounding her visit, have made it clear that Dr. Callamard is not approaching her assigment professionally or objectively," he added.

Despite this, Abella said the government is focused on implementing the President’s social justice agenda, in accordance with the law, to ensure that the country “is freed from the damage done daily to millions of our people by the proliferation of illegal drugs throughout our country.”

"The goals associated with these commitments and complementary and the efforts to achieve them are being carried out in a manner that respects our laws," Abella said. (SunStar Philippines)

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