UN rapporteur still invited to probe killings, with conditions: DFA

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 15 2016 08:52 AM | Updated as of Dec 15 2016 09:24 AM

The bodies of Noberto Maderal and fellow pedicab driver George Avancena, killed during a drug-related police operation, are taken away by funeral parlour workers in Manila, Philippines October 19, 2016. Damir Sagolj, Reuters

MANILA - The Philippines has not cancelled its invitation for a United Nations special rapporteur to look into the extrajudicial bloodbath amid government's war on drugs, the Department of Foreign Affairs clarified Thursday.

In a text message to ABS-CBN News, DFA spokesperson Charles Jose said special rapporteur Agnes Callamard may still investigate the killings as long as she complies with the guidelines set by the Philippine government.

"The invitation still stands. SFA (Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay) clarified that we have not cancelled the visit. It is up to Callamard to agree and comply with the conditions imposed by President Duterte in inviting her to visit the Philippines," Jose said.

Earlier reports quoted Yasay as saying that UN could not pursue its investigation because Callamard had declined to accept Duterte's guidelines.

"They cannot come if they will not comply with the conditions of our president regarding their visit to the Philippines to validate their claims, then the trip will not push through. They cannot come here," Yasay told reporters in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

The top diplomat, however, did not say what the government's guidelines were, although Duterte has said he wanted to challenge the UN rapporteur to a public debate.

Since Duterte took office on July 1, police say more than 2,000 people have died in anti-narcotics police operations, with another 3,000 deaths, caused by motorcycle-riding masked men and by vigilante groups, under investigation.

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Last month, Callamard wrote to the government, welcoming the Philippines' invitation to examine situations of extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions due to the war on drugs. She had intended to visit during the first quarter of next year.

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Yasay said the government must be given the opportunity to question the rapporteurs because the Philippines had already been maligned by allegations of extrajudicial killings.

In its October letter inviting the U.N. rapporteur, the government said it was "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".

Duterte has lashed out at U.S. President Barack Obama, the European Union and former U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon for criticizing the government's anti-drug campaign. -- With reports from Reuters; Alexius Calda, DZMM