Singhateh in Manila: First UN special rapporteur to visit PH since 2015

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 28 2022 11:03 PM

MANILA — United Nations special rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children Mama Fatima Singhateh is in the Philippines on an official country visit, the first UN special rapporteur since 2015 to be invited to the country.

She arrived on Sunday, according to the Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC) Secretariat.

On Monday morning, Singhateh met with the United Nations country team and had courtesy meetings at the Department of Foreign Affairs with Usec. Carlos Sorreta and Dir. Jesus Enrique Garcia and in Malacañang with Usec. Severo Catura, executive director of the PHRC Secretariat.

She attended on Monday afternoon a cluster meeting on the prevention of the sale and sexual exploitation of children, the first of 3 clustered meetings during her visit.

The former Justice minister of the Gambia will be in the country until December 9.

During her stay, Singhateh is also set to visit Bohol, Cebu City, Angeles City, Valenzuela and Cotabato and hold dialogues with the local community, civil society and local government officials.

Singhateh is expected to hold a press conference on December 8 to share her preliminary observations and a comprehensive report on her country visit will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2024.

Aside from Singhateh, UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan and UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions Morris Tidball-Binz are expected to visit PH next year.

FIRST IN 7 YEARS

Singhateh’s visit is the first by a UN special rapporteur under the new administration and the first in 7 years.

In 2016, former President Rodrigo Duterte cancelled a scheduled 2017 visit by then-UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard after a public word war over the thousands of killings in connection with Duterte’s bloody drug war.

The Duterte government had said Callamard supposedly did not comply with the conditions set by the Philippine government for her visit.

While the guidelines were not mentioned during the announcement of the cancellation, Duterte had previously challenged Callamard to a public debate.

In a statement, Callamard said a public debate was not the proper forum for Duterte to pose his questions, as there are high-level debriefings at the end of country visits of special rapporteurs, where the government can provide additional information.

She also insisted Duterte’s condition that she takes an oath before answering questions form government officials departed from the Code of Conduct of Fact-Finding Missions adopted by the Human Rights Council.

Callamard, however, was able to visit the country in May 2017 to attend a drug policy forum, where she was keynote speaker.

Callamard is now the secretary general of Amnesty International.

Another UN expert, then-special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Diego García-Sayán, went on an academic visit to the country in June 2018, when he criticized the quo warranto ouster of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

UN special rapporteurs are independent and are not UN staff. They work on a voluntary basis, in their individual capacity.

Singhateh was appointed to the post in March 2020.

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