Palace stands by its statement on Callamard

MANILA — Malacañang on Saturday stood by its statement criticizing United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard over her failure to properly inform the Philippine government of her visit to Manila despite clarifications made by the UN investigator of giving ‘prior notice.”

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella pointed out that while prior communications indeed happened, Callamard left some significant details in her statements.

“She conveniently failed to disclose that when the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights (UNHCHR) office in Geneva informed the Philippine Mission there, the Mission asked her to reconsider the trip since Philippine officials would be in Geneva at the same time for the Universal Periodic Review, and were expecting to see her, that being the appropriate venue to meet,” Abella stressed.

Callamard has insisted that prior notice has been given to the Philippine government about her visit.

“On 28 April 2017, the Government was officially informed of my forthcoming visit to the country to take part in an academic conference on drug related issues. The Government was also informed that the trip was not an official visit,” she said in a statement released by her office.

“The Government of the Philippines replied with letters dated 29 April and 1 May, acknowledging reception of my letter and reacting to the information about my upcoming academic trip. Exchanges on this matter by phone, mail and email between my mandate and the Permanent Mission of the Philippines continued until 4 May,” Callamard said.

But Abella said that “her delayed reply came on the day she left for the Philippines.”

“This was neither timely nor proper courtesy accorded to a sovereign nation. We stand by our statement,” Abella stressed.

Malacañang had earlier expressed dismay over Callamard’s failure to properly observe recognized United Nations protocols for country visits, putting into doubt the UN investigators sincerity and objectivity.

“We are aware that Dr. Callamard is currently in the Philippines and we are disappointed that, in not contacting our government in advance of this visit, she has 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 Friday.

He added that this assessment has been reinforced by the fact that the UN Rapporteur 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 the 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.

“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,” he said.

“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,” Abella said. Cielito Reganit/