UN probe on Philippine killings still can’t begin

Paterno Esmaquel II
UN probe on Philippine killings still can’t begin
DFA spokesman Charles Jose says UN rapporteur Agnes Callamard has not answered the Philippines' invitation even informally

MANILA, Philippines – The proposed investigation into extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the Philippines cannot push through yet as of Tuesday, November 8. 

This is because United Nations (UN) rapporteur Agnes Callamard has not responded to the Philippines’ invitation to conduct this probe, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose said.

“To date, the special rapporteur on EJKs has not officially responded to the official invitation sent to her through diplomatic channels, which was received by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights on October 24,” Jose said in a media briefing Tuesday, or two weeks after Callamard got the document.

Jose said Callamard has answered “not even informally”, even as the Philippine government is waiting for a formal written reply.

Callamard got the invitation almost a month after the Philippine government supposedly sent it. 

Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, earlier confirmed to Rappler that she received the invitation on October 24. 

“We have now begun the process of negotiating the scope and guarantees for the mission to go ahead and deliver the best outcomes in keeping with the terms of my mandate,” she said in an email on October 31.

Jose, however, said on Tuesday that this process has not begun.

He said that before Callamard can begin her probe, she needs to formally accept the Philippines’ invitation and negotiate the “terms of reference” with the Philippine government.

Jose said the terms of reference would normally include the following:

  • scope of the investigation
  • duration
  • places and persons or groups to visit
  • “the usual guarantees” of free movement, security, and non-reprisal against the investigator 

(Watch parts of the DFA spokesman’s media briefing below)

Duterte’s conditions

Jose pointed out that for Callamard’s proposed visit, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte also wants the terms of reference to include the following:

  • a requirement for Callamard to publicly present her findings in the Philippines
  • an opportunity for Duterte, “in person and in the presence of the special rapporteur and the media…to publicly ask questions on the report and present additional information or clarifications”

Jose said the special rapporteur has not responded to this specific request by Duterte. 

The DFA spokesman added: “The Philippines is not being singled out for a country visit. All UN member states are being requested to accept requests for country visits by special rapporteurs and other mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council.”

“We are open to country visits by special rapporteurs on different aspects, and in this particular aspect, on the alleged EJKs in the Philippines, the invitation was extended, which is consistent with the country’s willingness to be examined,” Jose said.

Callamard got the invitation nearly a month after Philippine Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea signed it on September 26.

Her proposed investigation comes as Duterte’s war on drugs has killed at least 4,812 people since July 1, a day after Duterte took office.

Of this number, around 3,001 have been slain in extrajudicial or vigilante-style killings. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.