A WORD war has ensued between Malacañang and United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard after the former accused the human rights expert of skipping protocol during her visit to Manila.
In a statement, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella maintained that the Philippine government was not informed about the scheduled visit of Callamard, the UN investigator on extrajudicial killings, to the country.
“Ms. Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur, has issued a statement rejecting [my]claim that the Philippine government had not been informed in advance of her trip to take part in a conference, and that such was not an official visit,” Abella said on Saturday.
“We stand by our statement [that she did not inform the Philippine government of her visit],” the Palace official added.
Abella on Friday slammed Callamard for her failure to inform the Philippine government of her visit. He also accused the UN special rapporteur of bias, in supposedly sending a signal that “she is not interested in getting an objective perspective on the issues that are the focus of her responsibility.”
Callamard decries ‘misinformation’
The UN repporteur was quick to react to Malacañang’s accusation, stressing that she had sent word about her participation in a forum on the illegal drug problem at the University of the Philippines.
She added that the Philippine government had acknowledged receipt of her April 28 letter that indicated her upcoming visit to the Philippines, and replied on April 29 and May 1.
“On 28 April 2017, the [Philippine] government was officially informed of my forthcoming visit to the country to take part in an academic conference on drug-related issues. The government was also informed that the trip was not an official visit,” Callamard said in a statement.
The UN special rapporteur also said that she communicated with the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the UN in Geneva by phone, mail, and electronic mail until May 4, as regards her visit.
But Abella insisted that Callamard defied the request of Permanent Mission of the Philippines to “reconsider” her trip to Manila.
The request, he said, was made as a Philippine delegation, which is set to present the country’s human rights record before a UN periodic review panel in Geneva, wished to meet her there.
“She conveniently failed to disclose that when the UNHCHR (United Nations High Commission on Human Rights) office in Geneva informed the Philippine Mission there, the Mission asked her to reconsider the trip since Philippine officials would be in Geneva at the same time for the Universal Periodic Review, and were expecting to see her, that being the appropriate venue to meet,” Abella said.
“Her delayed reply came on the day she left for the Philippines. This was neither timely nor proper courtesy accorded to a sovereign nation,” he added.
The Philippine delegation, led by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and Senior Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs Menardo Guevarra, is set to defend President Rodrigo 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.
In a speech delivered before health professionals in Davao City on Thursday, President Duterte assumed that Callamard, a critic of his brutal war on narcotics trade, was in the country to look into drug-related deaths.
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 however stated that Callamard could only begin the investigation if she agreed to a public debate with Duterte.
The human rights expert had said the conditions were inconsistent with the Special Rapporteur Code of Conduct and Terms of Reference for country visits.
Callamard arrived in the country on Thursday 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 in Quezon City.