21 December 2016
CHR Statement on the Official Invitation of the Philippines to the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions
The Commission on Human Rights back in October, welcomed the official announcement of the Philippine Government on its invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnès Callamard to the Philippines to conduct an investigation on the spate of extrajudicial killings in the country contained in the official invitation letter (dated 26 September 2016) of Philippine Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea. The announcement was then a reassuring gesture of commitment from the Philippine Government to uphold its human rights obligations.
However, the confirmation by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that the invitation has been withdrawn, has caused the Commission to be gravely disappointed. This recent development leaves ordinary and countless Filipinos to ponder whether the rule of law is still adhered to in the country or whether the current situation demonstrates the culture of impunity that has pervaded our country and caused a growing number of victims of EJKs a mounting injustice for the sufferings they continue to endure in this relentless campaign against drugs.
It must be borne in mind that Country Visits by UN Special Rapporteurs are governed by the Terms of Reference for Fact Finding Missions by Special Rapporteurs/Representatives of the Commission on Human Rights. In her briefing note, Callamard reiterated these conditions embodied in the TOR for her visit, originally scheduled for the first quarter of 2017, such as:
-Freedom of Movement
-Freedom of Inquiry (including access to facilities and persons
-Assurance that there will be no reprisals to the persons that the Rapporteur comes into contact with
-Security arrangements that would not interfere with any of the above conditions.
The Philippine Government’s requirement that the Rapporteur participate in an “open forum” where she can reply under oaths to the President’s queries regarding the investigation is unnecessary since during the course of the Country Visit, the Government, through its concerned officials and agencies shall have opportunities to engage with the Special Rapporteur considering the ultimate goal of the investigation is to ferret out the truth and to get both sides of the situation. It is neither a debate nor a contest but rather a serious attempt of improving the Rapporteur’s understanding of a particular situation, and enabling the mandate to formulate evidence-based recommendations for strengthening implementation of human rights conventions by the State Party.
We must be reminded that the reason for inviting the Special Rapporteur in the country is to examine and identify good practices of the government with the anti-drug campaign. They also have the mandate to assist the government in the most effective ways in securing the international standard on the protection of the right to life, to consult drug control strategies and policies along with the organization experts, and to study the serious situations of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, including through Urgent Appeals, and Reports to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.
With the foregoing, the Commission on Human Rights rallies the Philippine Government to allow and accommodate the Fact-Finding Mission of the UN Special Rapporteur on the spate of summary executions in the country, and to recognize that human rights treaty bodies play an important role in guiding States towards the full implementation of human rights treaties of which the Philippines acceded to. A total withdrawal of the invitation is an aggravation to the Filipino people and an affront to human rights. The rule of law cannot be dispensed with. Investigations must continue undeterred and unhampered. It is the true test of democracy.
Atty. Jacqueline Ann C. de Guia
OIC, Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Office
Telephone No: (02) 528-5792 / 09175919833
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org