Palace blasts Callamard over 'unannounced' visit Featured

Palace blasts Callamard over 'unannounced' visit

Malacañang on Friday expressed disappointment over UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Agnes Callamard's "unannounced" visit to the Philippines to speak at a policy forum on the illegal drug problem.

In a statement, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said by not informing the government of her visit, Callamard "sent a clear signal that she is not interested in getting an objective perspective on the issues that are the focus of her responsibility."

Abella said the Philippine delegation that is now in Geneva, Switzerland, will raise Callamard's actions to the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights.

"Our position is very clear, if Dr. Callamard is committed to ensuring due process to our government and a truly objective assessment of our record on an issue of tremendous importance to our nation, she should be in Geneva meeting with our representatives," he added, echoing the earlier position of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Callamard is a critic of the President Rodrigo Duterte's war on illegal drugs, which she has linked to human rights abuses, including killings of drug suspects. She was in the Philippines to speak at a two-day policy forum on the illegal drug problem organized by the Free Legal Assistance Group's (FLAG) Anti-Death Penalty Task Force.

In his statement, Abella indicated that Callamard's actions were unprofessional, considering that the Philippine government had issued an earlier invitation for her to visit the country.

"The fact that we issued an invitation to Dr. Callamard to visit the Philippines makes it clear that we respected her as a professional and we very much wanted her to see the situation on the ground first-hand and engage in an exchange of views with officials in our government to understand our position on the issue of human rights and the progress being made in the Philippines," he said.

"Her actions since then, and the circumstances surrounding her current visit, have made it clear that Dr. Callamard is not approaching her assignment professionally or objectively," Abella added.

"This is a matter we have asked our representatives at the United Nations to take up with their United Nations counterparts and it is something our delegation in Geneva will certainly be raising during their current visit."

Abella noted that the Philippine government sent a letter of invitation to Callamard in September 2016 for her to meet with members of the government and others to get their perspective on the drug war. However, Duterte wanted to question Callamard in a public forum, which the UN rapporteur rejected, saying it violates their Code of Conduct.

"The fact that Dr. Callamard did not respond to our invitation showed that she would not be approaching her review of allegations concerning our country objectively or comprehensively," Abella said.

"That assessment has been reinforced by the fact that Dr. Callamard has arrived in the Philippines in a manner that circumvents all recognized United Nations protocols for such visits and, more importantly, at the very time our government has a senior-level delegation traveling to Geneva to meet with officials of the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as part of the 3rd Cycle of the Universal Period Review of the Philippines and the issue of human rights," he added.

By TRISHA MACAS, GMA News

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