Civil society group calls for inhibition of UN rapporteur Callamard from human rights probe

MANILA — A civil society organization is asking for the recusal of Agnes Callamard, United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions, from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) investigation on the alleged extrajudicial killings in the country.

In an interview with reporters Monday, Pastor Boy Saycon, Council for Philippine Affairs (COPA) Secretary General and convenor of Liga Independencia Pilipinas (LIPI), said Callamard’s recent visit without coordination with the Philippine government amid the UNHRC periodic review in Geneva, Switzerland is a manifestation of her bias against the administration.

Saycon said the rapporteur’s statement at a drug policy forum in the University of the Philippines (UP) that the government’s war on drugs is a failure and her persistent claims of state-sponsored killings are intended to destroy the image of the country and malign the President’s campaign against crime, drugs, and corruption.

“Callamard knows that there is an ongoing investigation of the UN in Geneva, Switzerland. Why does she have to preempt the investigation? Besides, she has already condemned the war against drugs as if she is a judge. She came on her own as a reporter but she condemned it already. There is already a prejudgement,” Saycon said during a rally organized by the Liga Independencia Pilipinas (LIPI) condemning the intervention of UN and other international human rights advocacy groups on the government’s drive against illegal drugs held in Makati City.

“All I’m saying is do not destroy the image of the country by prejudging as she is not a judge. Even a judge needs to find probable cause before you issue a statement that there is extrajudicial killing,” he added.

Saycon said an in-depth investigation should be conducted to determine if the homicide incidents under the government’s war on drugs are due to legitimate police operations or fall under the so-called summary executions either by vigilantes, drug syndicates or by erring policemen.

Moreover, he said any investigation must also focus on the alleged massacres and human rights abuses committed during the previous administration.

“There is always a three-year assessment by the UNHRC. Remember if it is three years, it also must include incidents such as the Mamasapano massacre, Hacienda Luisita massacre and other human rights abuses that were committed during the previous administration. Why is it that the investigation only focuses on the first 10 months of the Duterte administration?” said Saycon.

LIPI stated that Callamard should study the historical and socio-cultural context why the problem of illegal drugs persisted in the country.

“Before she (Callamard) had issued such irresponsible and bias statement not just against the Duterte administration but also in the integrity of the country, she should have comprehensively studied the history and evolution of the illegal drugs menace in the Philippines. Conditions in the West are very much different compared to developing countries. In the West, all resources are available for the rehabilitation of a certain drug dependent. Opportunities are presented for citizens in the West to improve their well being while developing countries like the Philippines, dependency in illegal drugs is considered an escape from poverty, neglect and deprivation,” said the group in a statement.

The civil society group marched from the Makati Central Fire Station to the office of the UN in RCBC Plaza to deliver a manifesto seeking to declare Callamard as a persona non grata and her exclusion from the investigative team of the UNHRC. It also demanded that she must issue a public apology to the Filipinos.

LIPI is a newly formed multi-sectoral coalition that seeks to fight for Philippine sovereignty, assert the voice of the oppressed, and pursue nationalism in all aspects of governance.

Malacanang has stated that the issue on the surprise visit of Callamard last weekend will be raised to the UN by Philippine representatives and its delegation of senior government officials who are currently in Geneva for a review of the state of human rights in the country.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, the rapporteur’s action showed that she was not interested in having an objective perspective of the human rights situation in the Philippines. Aerol Patena/