• UN yet to reply to Manila request for killings probe

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    THE United Nations special rapporteur on summary executions who earlier criticized the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte on alleged extrajudicial killings in the country has not officially responded to an official invitation earlier sent by Malacañang.

    This was disclosed on Tuesday by Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose, who said UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Agnes Callamard has not replied to the invitation for her to investigate the Philippines’ ongoing campaign against illegal drugs.

    “To date, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings has not officially responded to the official invitation sent to her through diplomatic channels by the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights on October 24,” Jose told reporters in a news briefing at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

    Jose explained that by practice after acceptance of an invitation, Terms of Reference (TOR) of the country visit are negotiated together with the usual guarantees of free movement, security and non-reprisal.

    But aside from the usual scope, the President has included additional element in the TOR, including public presentation in the Philippines of the findings of the special rapporteur and the opportunity for the President to publicly ask questions and present additional information or clarification in the presence of the special rapporteur and the media.

    When asked if the additional element might be the reason why the special rapporteur has not responded to the invitation, Jose said the doesn’t think so because the UN rapporteur has not even replied to the invitation itself.
    “The special rapporteur has not responded to the invitation itself and much less to the specific element being requested by the President,” he added..

    The DFA spokesman clarified that even if the Philippine government has not yet received a response from the UN, the invitation still stands and the country has not set a deadline for it.

    He said for the country visit to take place, the UN special rapporteur needs to accept the invitation and agree on the TOR including the additional request of the President.

    “The country visit will not take place if there is no response from them [UN sepacial rapporteur],” Jose added.

    At the same time, he noted that the Philippines is not being singled out by UN for country visits because all UN member-states are requested to accept request for country visit by special rapporteurs and other mechanisms on the UN human rights council.

    Jose said the Philippines in the past had invited other special rapporteurs like those on internally displaced persons and on the right to food.

    When asked why he thinks Duterte is insisting that he be allowed to ask questions and be heard by the rapporteur, he replied that the President just wants to ensure fairness and to make sure that accuracy of information that the rapporteur would gather.

    “The rapporteur already made public statements about the allegations of [extrajudicial killings]in the Philippines and the President is compelled to say that what you are saying is wrong so if you come here to conduct investigation let me know what your findings are and I will try to rebut them in public,” Jose said.

    He added that the invitation sent by the Philippine government to the UN showed that the country is open to the visit by the special rapporteur and that it is consistent with the country’s willingness to be examined, while the specific element being requested by the President is meant to guarantee that fairness will be observed.

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