FOREIGN Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. on Friday said United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard must apologize for her “arbitrary” conclusions about the alleged human rights violations in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war against illegal drugs.
Speaking to reporters in Singapore, Yasay said demanding an apology from Callamard was necessary as her statements have been “very hurting” to the image of the Philippines
“She has damaged the country tremendously by her statement. People had jumped into conclusions that extrajudicial killings have been perpetrated in the Philippines, that there is rampant violation and state-sponsored violation of human rights,” he said.
“The damage that she has wrought on the basis of her responsibility is so great. It demands no less than an apology,” he added.
Yasay also said Callamard’s statement was one of the reasons that prompted the United States to “refocus” assistance to the Philippines.
The US government has shifted its assistance away from law enforcement since the start of President Duterte’s war on drugs. It also recently deferred a significant grant to the Philippines after citing concerns over the rule of law and human rights.
According to Yasay, Callamard broke UN protocol for issuing arbitrary and unverified findings.
Private debriefing, not debate
Duterte had invited Callamard to investigate the supposed summary killings, on condition that he would be allowed to publicly dispute her findings.
In a television interview on Friday, she rejected the condition and suggested a private debriefing with the President to discuss her preliminary findings.
Callamard stressed that the results of her investigation, which will be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, should be highly confidential.
“I cannot build trust, including with the police or with the government, if there is a threat of public debate at the end of the mission,” Callamard said from New York.
“There is the necessity of respect. Respect for the life, respect for the loss of life. Respect for the victims, respect for the police, respect for the family,” she added.
She also explained that a rapporteur was bound to follow the UN’s standardized assessment, and not to engage in a “politicized debate.”
“These cannot be the object of a public debate,” she said.
Despite the disagreement, she expressed hope that the government would still allow her intended visit in the first quarter of 2017.
“I am absolutely committed to come to the Philippines in the spirit of constructive dialogue with the government,” she said. “I am committed to offer my expertise.”
But Yasay said Duterte’s invitation for Callamard to visit the country was separate from the existing protocols of the UN for fact-finding missions.
He noted that the invitation was made on the condition that she make her findings and declarations under oath.
“It is so hypocritical for her to say now that she’d like to come to the Philippines and investigate and preserve the confidentiality that she needs in arriving at the conclusions, when she in fact already made the conclusions and was not very confidential in announcing the conclusions, based…simply on media reports that weren’t verified,” Yasay added.
Yasay said the ball was in Callamard’s court and that the Philippines did not withdraw its invitation to her.
“So the question of whether or not she could comply with…these conditions, is her own decision. If she cannot comply with it, then that’s the end of it. But, let it not be said that the Philippines has withdrawn the invitation for her. The invitation still stands, Ms. Callamard,” Yasay said.
At least 5,000 drug suspects have been killed since President Duterte assumed the presidency last June 30. Of this number, 2,000 were killed in police operations while 3,000 were killed by supposed vigilantes.
Lawmakers defend rapporteur
Senator Leila de Lima, a leading critic of the drug war, urged the government to reconsider the conditions imposed on the rapporteur.
“It is imperative that Dr. Callamard and her delegation be allowed to discharge their duties effectively and unhampered to show to the world that we are still a nation that observes the rule of law, honors the dignity of life, respects the basic human rights, and remains committed to the democratic values of transparency and accountability,” de Lima said in a statement from Germany, where she was attending a conference on cultural diplomacy.
At the House of Representatives, two lawmakers claimed the restrictions imposed by the Duterte administration on the visit of Callamard meant a “deadly Christmas.”
“This move on restrictions shows that the policies of the Duterte administration are still the same: to pursue a deadly Christmas, to pursue extrajudicial killings unchecked by international human rights groups,” Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin said.
“This shows that Malacañang is not taking human rights policies seriously, and this is alarming. Many people are killed, even as high as 30 dying everyday. That is a cause for concern,” Villarin told reporters.
Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo said Duterte’s conditions were tantamount to barring any scrutiny of his policies.
“The objective of Duterte is to lambast and embarrass the UN rapporteur,” Alejano said.
“Duterte has a different definition of what ‘human rights’ is and anything less than his definition is deemed wrong,” Alejano added.
WITH REPORTS FROM LLANESCA T. PANTI AND JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA