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MANILA, Philippines – United Nations officials who accept President Rodrigo Duterte’s invitation to probe killings linked to his drug war should answer his questions under oath.
This was among the conditions written in the Palace’s formal invitation to UN special rapporteur on summary executions Agnes Callamard.
The letter, labeled “Invitation for a Country Visit,” is dated September 26, 2016, but was released on September 28.
In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Rappler, the Palace says Duterte should be allowed to ask Callamard about the investigation.
“Since it is this administration that is maligned as being behind these extrajudicial killings, due process requires that the President of the Philippine Republic, be given the opportunity to propound his own questions which have been nagging him for some time,” reads the letter signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
Duterte is “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,” the letter stated.
The President had said as much when he first challenged Callamard to a debate in a news briefing in Davao City on August 21, and again – this time with with representatives of another critic, the European Union – on September 22. He said then that he wants to ask questions to them as well in an “open forum” at the “Senate or the arts center.” (READ: Duterte invites UN, EU officials to PH to probe killings)
To ensure Callamard and other members of the UN investigating team speak the truth, the Palace asks in its letter of invitation that they will be directed to swear under oath before they respond to the President’s questions.
“It would be best to put everyone to whom questions are directed to swear under oath that the answers and/or responses they give are the truth and nothing but the truth,” reads the letter.
‘See for yourself’
The rest of the letter urged Callamard to “take a fresh look” at the Philippine situation, claiming that media reports on extrajudicial killings inaccurately attribute the killings to the Duterte government.
The letter asserts that the term “extrajudicial” is being used by Duterte’s “critics and detractors” to describe the drug-related killings.
The Palace reminded Callamard that Duterte, in his inaugural speech, committed to fight illegal drugs by “all means that the law allows.”
“It is with this context that we invite you to visit our country and see for yourself whether or not the criticisms are legally and factually sound,” says the letter.
Over 3,800 deaths have been linked to the government’s drug war. Of this, more than half are extrajudicial killings while the rest are deaths of suspects during “legitimate” police operations. Police claim that these deaths resulted from suspects “fighting back.”
Duterte, in televised speeches in military and police camps, has declared his full support for police or soldiers who kill drug suspects who violently resist surrender.
Duterte claims full responsibility for deaths that occur during police operations but insists extrajudicial killings are the work of criminal syndicates and not the government. – Rappler.com