MANILA, Philippines – Malacanang said it is open to having the United Nations investigate extrajudicial killings in the country even as it insists that other countries have simply “misunderstood” the government’s war on drugs, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Tuesday.
Abella also said the Duterte administration is not fretting over calls by 45 UN member-states, including long-time allies the United States, Japan, Canada and Australia, as well as the Holy See, for a probe into the thousands of deaths that have marked the war on drugs.
“We’re not attempting to change anybody’s mind about these things,” Abella said. “We’re just pursuing our own direction about (the) dismantling of (the) illegal drugs apparatus.”
“Basically, there has been a misunderstanding about what we are actually doing,” he said.
The concerns over the drug war killings were raised during the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines’ human rights record before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, where Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who presented the country’s report, denied state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings and said reports to the contrary were based on “alternative facts.”
Abella basically echoed the positions presented by Cayetano in Geneva, including asking why not as much attention has been paid to the up to 16,000 extrajudicial killings supposedly committed during the previous administration, and the alleged change in the definition of extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration when the term was used to refer only to the murder of activists in the past.
Among the sectors government has blamed for this is the media.
While the government has extended an official invitation to United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard to visit the country and investigate the drug war deaths, it has insisted she can do so only if she agrees to three conditions set by Duterte, including debating and being questioned by him.
Callamard has rejected the conditions, saying these would violate her mandate.
Last week, Callamard again earned the administration’s ire when she flew into Manila to attend a forum on drug killings at the University of the Philippines.
Abella complained she had not informed the government she was coming but the UN expert belied this.
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