MANILA, Philippines - “Dead as a door nail.”
This is the fate of the complaint filed with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President Duterte, according to Philippine ambassador to the United Nations Teodoro Locsin Jr.
The complaint was in connection with allegations of extrajudicial killings ordered or abetted by the Duterte administration in the pursuit of his war on drugs.
“Thank you, Agnes. The ICC case is dead. Trust me on this. Dead as a door nail,” Locsin said in a Twitter post, referring to UN special rapporteur for extrajudicial executions Agnes Callamard, who is in the Philippines to attend a drug policy conference.
Locsin did not offer an explanation for his claim but it was apparently a follow-up to his tweets criticizing Callamard. He accused her of abusing her position when she visited the country to attend a conference on drug policy.
“She says to attend an academic conference but she effectively disqualified herself from any further official role investigating the drug war,” Locsin said.
“She just abused her UN position and that disqualifies her from any further official role in a UN investigation,” he added.
In another tweet, Locsin called the rapporteur a “conceited fool” ignorant of the drug situation in the Philippines.
“I don’t think she is. She is a stand-alone conceited fool and totally ignorant of the drug problem,” he replied to one tweet that attempted to tie her to the Liberal Party.
He said Callamard’s role as a UN rapporteur was affected when she acknowledged having informed the Philippine government about her trip.
“(She) did in one day what Jose Rizal used his whole life including his death to pull off: give Filipinos a sense of their country,” said Locsin.
Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) said country representatives from Kenya, Paraguay and Switzerland were to serve as rapporteurs for the Universal Period Review (UPR) of the human rights record of the Philippines tomorrow in Geneva.
Special rapporteurs such as Callamard will not be part of the review as it only involves official delegates of governments sitting in the council.
The Philippine delegation is composed of deputy executive secretary for legal affairs Menardo Guevarra, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and Undersecretary Severo Catura of the Presidential Human Rights Committee.
The Duterte administration’s war against illegal drugs and the alleged extrajudicial killings in the country will be among the issues that will be raised during the UPR.
Other issues to be raised include the proliferation of private armies and vigilante groups, combatting torture, tackling impunity; addressing cases of harassment, disappearance, threats and killings of human rights defenders and members of the media; the age of criminal responsibility, addressing prison overcrowding and poverty reduction.
The Philippine delegation will also be asked about land reform, mining-related human rights violations, discrimination, human trafficking and exploitation of children for sex tourism and providing assistance to migrant workers and other Filipinos overseas.
Also expected to be covered are matters involving the rights of indigenous peoples, birth registration and the right to nationality, access to education, child labor, prohibition of corporal punishment and the protection of children in armed conflict.
The Philippines will undergo the third cycle of the UPR before the UN Human Rights Comission. It was reviewed in 2008 and 2012.
Defense of war on drugs
During the UPR, governments are expected to spell out steps they have taken to implement recommendations posed during previous reviews as well as highlight recent human rights developments in their respective countries.
The delegation is expected to defend the Duterte administration from criticisms that thousands had been killed in the conduct of his war on drugs.
The government earlier disputed the alleged “bloated” reporting of the casualties in police operations, saying only 2,692 suspected drug offenders died in more than 52,000 operations since July 2016.
Official data said the more than 9,000 deaths are considered as homicides under investigation. Of the number, 1,847 were found to be drug-related, while 1,894 are non-drug related. The rest are still under investigation.
The Philippines had submitted its advance report on the human rights situation in the country.
The 23-page document, uploaded on the UN HRC website, contained the government’s actions with regard to recommendations made in the previous review.
“This report demonstrates the progress (the government) has proudly made since the last review. While much has been achieved, (the government) acknowledges that there is still much to be done,” it read.
“The new administration desires to replicate the successes of Davao City and its multi-awarded programs on governance, peace and order, gender-sensitivity and women’s and children’s rights,” the report said, adding that the government “welcomes the scrutiny of its record in an open and constructive dialogue offered by the UPR process.”
Also cited in the report was the commitment of President Duterte to promote, protect and fulfill the rights of the citizens, especially the poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable.
“This administration shall implement a rights-based approach to development and governance, as we improve our people’s welfare in the areas of health, education, adequate food and water, housing, environmental preservation and respect for culture,” read the report.
It defended the campaign against illegal drugs, noting that the government is determined to prioritize human security to prevent anarchy and the destruction of the Filipino family.
“Data shows that since the inception of the law enforcement campaign against illegal drugs on 1 July 2016, 30 percent of total focused crimes went down, showing a correlation between drug use and crime rate,” it added.
CHR execs to Geneva
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairman Chito Gascon also flew to Geneva to lead the delegation that will monitor the UPR.
Joining him are commissioners Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana and Roberto Cadiz.
Gascon earlier said that their team would not be a part of the official Philippine delegation that would defend the country’s human rights record before the UN body.
“(The members of the delegation) must be responsible officials with direct mandate from the government of President Duterte,” the CHR chief said.
Although not part of the Philippine delegation, Gascon said the CHR has submitted to the HRC a parallel report of its observations of the Philippines’ human rights record since the last periodic review during the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III.
Other human rights groups have also submitted their respective positions to the human rights body regarding the situation in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, President Duterte said he would pardon himself if found guilty by the courts of ordering or tolerating extrajudicial killings.
He also assured law enforcers of absolute pardon with promotions in case they are dragged to court for following his orders to kill drug users who resist arrest.
“After conviction, all has been done legally, it is mine to do my legal thing. Why? Well, there is a residual power of the President. What is it? Pardon,” he said in recent remarks in Davao City.
“It does not even say, ‘can pardon a criminal except himself.’ There is no exception. Does not… If it’s indicated ‘except to himself,’ then I cannot pardon myself. But since it’s a blanket authority before I leave Malacañan, pardon is hereby given to Rodrigo Duterte. Signed, Rodrigo Duterte,” he said, eliciting laughter from the audience.
Duterte, a lawyer, said he just needed to use the powers vested upon him under the Constitution.
“I don’t need to tinker with the law. Hindi na kailangang bastusin ‘yung batas. Wala na ‘yan (I don’t need to mess with the law. No need). Follow your dream. Convict if you want. Don’t make it hard for everybody,” he said.
As president, Duterte is immune from suits during his six-year term.
He maintained he had not killed any drug suspect or directly ordered the killing of one.
He stressed the drug problem has been put under control since he assumed office some 10 months ago.
“Drugs are a little bit controlled now. Many died along the way because they refused to give up,” the President said.
He said people should not believe stories about his supposedly having killed people even when they were begging for their lives.
“How can you kill a person kneeling down?” he said. “There were deaths caused by encounters because my message to the police and military is very simple: ‘Arrest them if it is possible, still if it’s no longer possible, then if they confront you with a violent resistance and you feel that you’d lose your life in the process, kill them’,” Duterte said.
“Iyon lang ang inutos ko (That’s my only order), which is really the rule, the criminal law of all lands. That when your life is in danger, especially if you are a peace officer, that’s self-preservation. Self-defense,” he said.
By – Christina Mendez, Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star)