Roque hits Agnes Callamard: She’s not qualified to probe EJKs

Mara Cepeda

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Roque hits Agnes Callamard: She’s not qualified to probe EJKs

But UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard has a 'distinguished' career in human rights and humanitarian work across the globe

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque questioned the qualification of Agnes Callamard to be the United Nation’s (UN) special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings.

In an interview with dzBB on Tuesday, January 2, Roque said he knows Callamard is an expert on freedom of expression, but not on the issue of extrajudicial killings. 

Itong si Agnes Callamard, hindi ko nga maintindihan kung bakit siya ay naging expert on against illegal killing kasi kakilala ko iyan; ang larangan talaga niya iyong freedom of expression,” said Roque, who was a human rights lawyer before being appointed to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet.

(I don’t understand why Agnes Callamard is an expert against illegal killing because I know her; her expertise is on freedom of expression.) 

He did not mince words as he wondered what were Callamard’s qualifications for her current post at the UN.

Wala naman siyang special na mga research on extralegal killing ‘no. At siyempre iyong hindi siya makapasok ngayon sa Pilipinas para mag-conduct ng investigation, iyan ay patunay na palpak siya sa trabaho niya kasi inaway niya nang inaway ang gobyerno,” said Roque.

(She doesn’t have research on extralegal killings. Of course, the fact that she cannot enter the Philippines to conduct an investigation, that’s an indication that she failed in her work because she is fighting the government.)

Hindi tuloy siya maka-imbestiga dahil kinakailangan magkaroon ng invitation ‘no bago ka makapag-imbestiga (Now she can’t investigate here because she needs an invitation before she can do so),” he added.

Roque’s tirades against Callamard comes after she defended two Filipina UN experts Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, who issued a joint statement urging the Philippine government to observe international obligations and protect the rights of indigenous people under the Mindanao martial law. 

UN special rapporteurs are appointed by the Human Rights Council to report on a country’s situation or a specific human rights theme based on their expertise. 

Unlike Roque’s criticism, Callamard has a “distinguished” career in human rights and humanitarian work, according to her biography in the website of Columbia Global.

In October 2004, Callamard became executive director for ARTICLE 19, an international human rights organization working globally for freedom of expression.

She used to be Chef de Cabinet for the Secretary General of Amnesty International. She also led the organization’s efforts on women’s human rights as its research policy coordinator. 

She had conducted several human rights probes in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Callamard founded the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership and also worked in the field of international refugee movements under the center for Refugee Studies in Torronto. 

As UN special rapporteur, Callamard had been criticizing Duterte’s bloody war against drugs, which has led to thousands of drug suspects killed in legitimate police operations and apparent summary executions nationwide. 

Duterte recently threatened to slap Callamard should she investigate the drug war deaths. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.