Callamard: No war on drugs probe during PH visit

Bea Cupin

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Callamard: No war on drugs probe during PH visit

Lito Boras

'They are entitled to monitor me, absolutely,' says UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard of the Philippine government

MANILA, Philippines – United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard reiterated on Friday, May 5, that she will not investigate the war on drugs during her visit to the country.

“I am not here on an official visit. I am here…on an invitation to participate in an academic conference,” said Callamard on the sidelines of a forum on drug policies at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

President Rodrigo Duterte had, on several occasions, challenged Callamard to a public debate, after she urged the Philippine government to adopt the necessary measures to protect its citizens from “targeted killings and extrajudicial executions.”

Pressed on whether she had plans to speak to the Philippine government in an official capacity, Callamard reiterated her visit was “only for the purpose of an academic conference.” 

Callamard gave the keynote speech at the Drug Issues: Different Perspectives forum, which will discuss the existing drug situation in the Philippines, and drug policies here and in different countries.

“It’s an important conference and important benchmark and I invite all parties to the situation, including the government, to participate fully and to take stock of the debates that will happen,” added Callamard, who said in her speech that a punitive approach to illegal drugs does not work.

Citing conferences and studies inside and outside the UN, she called for a “balanced, multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary” approach to solving the problem of illegal drugs.

Asked by reporters to assess President Rodrigo Duterte’s popular but controversial war on drugs, Callamard stayed quiet, refusing to answer media queries.

Pressed if she was also collating information about the drug war while in the Philippines, she said: “I’m going to be here (conference). That’s it.

“They are entitled to monitor me, absolutely,” said Callamard, when asked if she was worried that the Philippine government would keep a close watch over her as she attended the two-day conference.

Special Rapporteurs conduct special fact-finding missions in different countries, depending on their expertise. They may only visit a country for an “official visit,” however, if the country itself extends an invitation.

Callamard was extended an invitation by the Duterte administration via a letter dated September 26, 2016. But it came with conditions, such as allowing the Philippine president to “propound his own questions” to Callamard.

Malacañang on Friday expressed “disappointment” over Callamard’s visit because she failed to inform government beforehand. – 

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.