MANILA — The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Sunday said a United Nations (UN) special rapporteur is scheduled to visit the Philippines as a forensic pathologist, and not in his capacity as a rapporteur on extra-judicial killings.
In a statement, the DOJ said Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla personally invited forensic expert and UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial summary or arbitrary executions Morris Tidball-Binz, who will be in the country from Feb. 6 to 9.
However, the department clarified that Tidball-Binz is not coming to the country as a special rapporteur on EJK, but as an "expert in the field of forensic pathology."
"I invited Dr. Tidball-Binz because his work speaks for itself. His missions and projects had an immeasurable impact on the countries he has helped. He has provided closure for families and victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. We are hoping for the same when he visits the Philippines," Remulla said.
DOJ also noted that Remulla invited Tidball-Binz to the Philippines when they met in Geneva, Switzerland last November to attend the Universal Peer Review, a month after Remulla presented contrasting views on the country's human rights situation before the UN Human Rights Council.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Tidball-Binz was named special rapporteur in April 2021, after having served in different regional and global human rights programs for Amnesty International, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, Penal Reform International, and the International Service for Human Rights.
He was also the first director of the International Committee of the Red Cross' Forensic Services and Unit, where he served from 2004 to 2020. In 2018, Tidball-Binz led the ICRC's Missing Persons Project to assist in the development of new guidelines in the prevention and resolution of missing persons cases, the DOJ said.
Referring to the accomplishments of Tidall-Binz, Remulla said: "This will pave the way for forensic pathologists and enhance their practice to achieve international standard practices. Dr. Tidball-Binz's visit will help us identify the intricacies of wrongful death tragedies."
"He is coming in his capacity as an expert in the field to help capacitate our current doctors. We need more capable doctors in our country to assist our law enforcement agencies in their work. This is an enormous step towards that goal," the Justice official explained.
Tidball-Binz's visit comes 2 weeks after the International Criminal Court (ICC) moved to resume its investigation of the Duterte administration's drug war and the Davao Death Squad killings.
DOJ spokesperson Mico Clavano asked the ICC for more time for the Philippine government to conduct its own investigation, noting that the country has a "functioning justice system."
“We are doing a genuine investigation on the killings from 2016 up to 2019 or even up to the end, 2022. If there’s a working justice system, then the ICC cannot come in and supplant or substitute our working justice system with their own, dahil gumagana naman,” Clavano in a Jan. 29 media forum.
Presidential legal counsel Juan Ponce Enrile, for his part, said he would move for the arrest of ICC investigators who would come to the Philippines without prior permission from the government.
“As lawyer of the President, as far as I am concerned, I do not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court of Justice. They have no sovereign power over us,” Enrile had said.