Malacañang slams visit of UN rapporteur to PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 5) — Malacañang Palace claims it was not notified of United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard's visit to the Philippines for a keynote speech.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement on Friday that Callamard's arrival "circumvents all recognized United Nations protocols for such visits."

"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 wrote.

He also noted that her visit coincides with the departure of a "senior-level delegation" from the country to Geneva for the 3rd Cycle of the Universal Period Review of the Philippines.

The delegates will be meeting officials from the UN High Commission for Human Rights, where they will "certainly be raising" their concerns with Callamard, Abella added.

"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 said.

Callamard is in the Philippines as a guest speaker for a two-day drug policy forum, "Drug Issues, Different Perspectives," at the University of the Philippines (UP) from May 5 to 6.

The forum, organized by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), also coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Commission on Human Rights.

One of the organizers, Cookie Diokno FLAG, said that as far as they know, "the UN Special Rapporteur followed all of the protocols or the procedures required which was to inform the Philippine government, contrary to what is stated in the statement."

UP Chancellor Michael Tan clarified that the gathering was not held to defy the government.

He added that while the state university is one with the campaign against drugs, they favor the proper implementation of anti-drug policies.

Diokno added they organized the event precisely to "come up with better alternatives."

When asked what she thought of Malacanang following her activities, Callamard responded: "They are entitled to monitor me absolutely... I am here at the invitation of the university and of the task force. I will participate to the discussion in that role and that's the only contribution and work that I will be doing over the next two days."

PH and its international commitments

Callamard proceeded with her keynote speech on Friday, where she condemned the war on drugs anew and evoked international commitments on combating illegal drugs.

Duterte's war on drugs has attracted criticism worldwide, despite enjoying popularity in the Philippines. Human rights organizations have reported over 9,000 drug-related deaths since it was launched in July 2016, although government officials insist that there are far less.

"The General Assembly of the World's Governments recognized exclusively that the war on drugs - be it community-based, national or global - does not work," Callamard said.

She specifically mentioned the outcome document called the "joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem," released during the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in New York in April 14, 2016. The Philippines was one of the countries present at the session.

"What governments did not commit to do a year ago — all of them, including the government of the Philippines — was a war on drugs approach," said Callamard.

She said they called for a "multi-faceted, multidisciplinary approach," putting emphasis on health, rights and justice.

"What they did not do was to suggest that death penalty was an appropriate and effective response to drug trafficking, let alone drug use," she added.

Her comment comes after administration allies in the House of Representatives passed a measure reviving the death penalty, which was abolished in 2006, against drug-related offenses.

Callamard also slammed "badly thought-out, ill conceived policies."

She warned that based on UN documentation, such policies only resulted in exacerbating the drug problem.

She enumerated new problems included killings — whether extrajudicial or by criminal gangs — the breakdown of the rule of law, torture, prolonged pre-trial detention, disproportionate long sentences for drug possession, and detention in drug and rehabilitation centers without a trial or proper evaluation of drug dependency.

"This rejection of human rights is a rejection of our common humanity," said Callamard.

In response to Callamard, the Philippine National Police in a statement on Friday said the health and social welfare departments, local governments, and civil sector partners have been offering assistance to drug offenders through treatment and rehabilitation.

CNN Philippines Correspondents Ina Andolong and Cecille Lardizabal contributed to this report.