Callamard: Philippines can condemn UN probe now, but rejecting findings would draw sanctions

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 12) — There will be consequences if the Philippines would reject the results of the United Nations' review of the country's human rights situation, an expert warned.

"Of course, it can continue to reject the call of the international community, it can continue to ignore the calls from within the Philippines itself, it can continue to do all of those things. However, I think every refusal will eventually have a much higher price that it does right now. Eventually, there will be a cost attached to the denial and to the violations," Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told CNN Philippines Friday.

The Philippine government has condemned the United Nations Human Rights Council's approval of a resolution on Thursday that asks the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to probe the killings and other alleged human rights abuses in the country. The country's top diplomat, Foreign Affairs Secretary Tedoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin, Jr. said any probe resulting from the resolution "will not be allowed in the country." He also warned that "there will be consequences" as the human rights body has insulted Filipinos in passing a baseless measure.

Callamard said, "rejection of the resolution itself may not have a cost, what will have a cost is the rejection of the findings of the inquiry."

"The cost can take many shapes – it can be sanctions, it can be something related to the assistance, developmental assistance, it can be symbolic, it can be economic, it can be political," she explained.

Callamard, however, stressed the sanctions are a "last remedy," hoping that the Philippines would eventually heed the call of the international community.

"I'm hoping that the resolution is sending a signal to the government that they must proceed with the recommendations which are: investigate properly all the killings that have taken place at the hands of the police, put an end to the brutal war on drugs, adopt a human rights based approach to fighting crimes," Callamard said.

"What we really, really want is for the government to do the right thing."

What's next for PH?

Iceland's resolution, which 18 other states of the 47-member Human Rights Council voted to adopt, also urged the Philippines to conduct an independent investigation into the killings and alleged rights violations. Fourteen other nations, including the Philippines and China, voted against it. The remaining 15 abstained.

On the part of the United Nations, Callamard said the next step would be for it to identify who will lead its probe, and determine how it will be conducted if the government would refuse access to investigators. Callamard herself previously tried to investigate the country's bloody war on drugs but was repeatedly criticized and threatened by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Callamard said it is "very unlikely" for her to be tapped to help out with the review now, noting that the investigation is all up to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Based on the resolution, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet will present a "comprehensive" report on the Philippines' case in June 2020, during the Human Rights Council's 44th regular session in Geneva.

READ: What to expect from UN's review of Philippine drug war

"At the moment there is the words of the Philippine government regarding the situation and insisting that all the killings are legitimate even though they have not been properly investigated. So the objective of the inquiry is to really provide a strong human rights basis for the conclusion regarding the human right situation," Callamard said.

"Once those conclusions have been identified, there will be next steps in terms of new resolutions as to what will be required of the Philippine government," she added.

Long road to UN probe

Government data show at least 6,600 people have been killed in anti-illegal drug operations since Duterte took office in July 2016. The country's independent Commission on Human Rights as well as international human rights groups have pegged the deaths at more than 27,000 that are filed by the police as "homicides under investigation."

The police are claiming most of those who died in drug operations resisted arrest and fired the first shot.

The Duterte government has argued it does not need the international community to intervene because it can investigate and prosecute erring police officers, noting the murder conviction of three cops in the slay of then 17-year-old Kian delos Santos in a police operation in 2017. But human rights groups are saying it is not enough assurance justice will also be served in the cases of thousands of other victims.

There have been repeated calls for for a United Nations probe on the Philippines' bloody war on drugs, among which, is an unprecedented joint statement by 11 human rights experts, including Callamard, who referred to the problem as a "human rights crisis." She clarified she does not consider the Philippines to have the "worst" human rights situation in the world, but noted that it needs to be put to the international spotlight now more than ever.

"In the case of the Philippines there have been insufficient attention placed on the human rights violations and so the call by the 11 special rapporteurs really [shook] the foundation and the confidence that the international community had for the Philippines human rights record and forced them to consider the fact that the Philippines was deteriorating sharply and that something needed to be done before it got worse," Callamard said.