Palace: UN to propose names of possible drug war probers

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 08 2018 05:54 PM

MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday said the United Nations would propose names of investigators who would look into President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial war on drugs. 

This as the administration maintained that it is open to any investigation as long as it would not be led by the world body’s special rapporteur Agnes Callamard.

Citing information from Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said UN Secretary General António Guterres had said the body would be proposing names of possible probers.

Roque said this was why he withheld making recommendations on who could investigate the war on drugs. 

He had earlier said he would prefer a different rapporteur as Callamard was unfit to conduct an "objective and unbiased" inquiry given her earlier statements against the government's anti-drug campaign. 

“You know, the special rapporteur in extralegal killings is only one of the special rapporteurs under the thematic rapporteur system of the UN Human Rights Council. There are other rapporteurs,” Roque said in a news conference.

“I withheld my recommendation when I found out that there was already communication between the UN SecGen himself and our Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Let’s await the list of possible names to be given by the UN Secretary General.”

Roque maintained that Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, has already prejudged Duterte and his war on drugs and is, therefore, not welcomed by the Philippine government.

Callamard had been the subject of Duterte's tirades. 

“Siguro po matatagalan bago mahilom iyong mga sugat na nagresulta doon sa ginawa ni Callamard. Ang masakit po diyan kay Callamard pa ‘no, she came here unannounced at that time when we were in the process of negotiating her investigation,” Roque said, referring to Callamard’s visit to the Philippines in May last year to appear in a drug forum and visit the Commission on Human Rights on its anniversary. 

“So this is what happens when the UN Human Rights Council does something that would cause a member-state of the UN to lose trust in some of its rapporteurs.”

The government had invited Callamard to visit the Philippines and conduct a probe into the human rights situation in the country, but the special rapporteur rejected this as it came with conditions, such as holding a public debate with the President.


UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on Wednesday called out the Philippine government for its “continued vilification of this Council’s Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial killings by the authorities,” referring to Callamard.

Zeid also criticized Duterte for telling the police not to cooperate in any probe to be conducted by the United Nations into the war on drugs.

“The government has a duty to uphold human rights and to engage with persons appointed by this Council. I am concerned by deepening repression and increasing threats to individuals and groups with independent or dissenting views, including opposition Senators, current and former public officials, the Commission on Human Rights, human rights defenders and journalists,” Zeid said during the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Zeid also noted the cases of impeachment and dismissal against members of the Supreme Court, the Office of the Ombudsman, and other institutions “representing democratic safeguards.” 

He also mentioned fierce administration critic Sen. Leila de Lima’s continued detention despite the supposed absence of clear charges. De Lima has been detained for a year over drug charges that she has decried as political persecution. 

Responding to Zeid’s statement, Roque insisted that the Philippines is not neglecting its international obligation to uphold human rights as he noted that the country’s sovereignty must still be respected.

“My reply to His Excellency the Prince of Jordan (Zeid) is it’s a two-way street. The entire human rights mechanism of the UN is built around sovereignty, and it will not work if rapporteurs become untrustworthy as far as sovereign states are concerned,” Roque said.

Roque also stressed that De Lima was detained based on the decision of independent courts.

“So Your Excellency, I do not know what kind of a system that you have in Jordan, but in our system, we respect the independence of the judiciary. We will allow the judiciary to proceed and decide on the case of Leila De Lima. And I’m sorry if our legal system is vastly different from your legal system in Jordan,” he said.

The administration has many times defended the drug war, saying it was not behind summary killings. Officials have also asserted that drug suspects slain in police operations had resisted arrest.