PH invites 3rd UN special rapporteur to the country

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 21 2022 11:19 PM

MANILA — The Philippine government has invited a third United Nations special rapporteur to the country during the universal periodic review of the Philippine human rights situation in Geneva, Switzerland last week.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said Monday they expect UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions Morris Tidball-Binz to be in the country next year.

“We want to do capacity-building for our forensic pathologists in the country. Right now, we only have 2 licensed, legal, legitimate and actually internationally accepted forensic pathologists in our country. The rest of the medico-legal experts are medico-legal experts but not the level of forensic pathologist that we want in ours,” he said.

Remulla said the invitation is intended to train more forensic pathologists in the country, with the goal of having 1 forensic pathology for every region.

“If there are murders or there are deaths that are untimely in the provinces, at least they can help us with investigations. If our people are trained already in the art and the science of forensic pathology that we will have experts determining the results,” he said. 

The importance of forensic pathology came to the fore with the recent death of an inmate or person deprived of liberty (PDL) inside the New Bilibid Prison.

Jun Villamor, an alleged middleman in the killing of radio commentator Percy Lapid, was initially ruled to have died of natural cause but a re-autopsy by renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun found he was killed by suffocation with plastic. 

Remulla said forensic pathology is also important in dealing with disasters.

“Remember Yolanda where there are thousands of bodies which had to be processed?…International teams of forensic pathologists went here to help us and, and the special rapporteur was part of that. He welcomed our invitation to actually, our invitation was more of a a follow-up already on an agreed program that we had in the UNJP [UN Joint Program for Human Rights] for capacity building of our forensic pathologists,” he explained. 

The invitation to the third UN special rapporteur follows the invitation to 2 UN special rapporteurs to the country by former Justice Secretary and now Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra.

UN special rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children Mama Fatima Singhateh will be in the Philippines from November 28 to December 8 while UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan is expected next year.

An invitation from the Philippine government is needed before UN special rapporteurs can make official visits to the country.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte publicly feuded with former UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard over her remarks condemning the thousands of deaths in connection with the bloody drug war.

In December 2016, the Philippine government cancelled Callamard’s 2017 visit, which was supposed to look into the rising death toll in the drug war.


PH cancels visit by UN rapporteur on extrajudicial killings
The Philippines has cancelled a trip next year by the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings to look into the rising death toll in its war on drugs, the country's foreign secretary said on Wednesday.

But the Marcos administration, Remulla told the international community on several engagements in Geneva including the UN Human Rights Council, has adopted a more humane approach to the drug war by focusing on the root cause and ensuring human rights is incorporated in every step of the way.

“So what they saw was a country open to suggestion, a country that does not deny that there are problems within the system but who is open to suggestions and open to improving whatever situation that is here,” he said.

“We don't hide and say that's not true. What we're saying is that if there's room for improvement, we will take it on…It's really healthy for international relations because it's a caring gesture that they want to show us and we also reciprocate this caring gesture by being open to all of these suggestions to our country,” he said.

Compared to the hundreds, if not thousands, killed in the first few months of the Duterte administration, the Philippine National Police reported only 46 deaths in the anti-drug campaign in the past 4 months. 

But Human Rights Watch accused the Philippine government of undercounting the number of deaths, citing an independent monitor’s record of 127 deaths from July 1 to November 7 this year, based on the estimate of the University of the Philippines’ Third World Studies Center.

“The government’s killing of 46 people is not ‘minimal’ by any standard,” it said. “Friends of the Philippines should not be fooled.


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