Police ordered not to reply to UN human rights investigators; Palace to invite reporter to swim in Pasig River if she persists

President Duterte at the opening ceremony of the National SWAT Challenge at the Team Davao Inc. Pistol and Rifle Range in Davao (Photo from Presidential Communications/Government of the Philippines Official Facebook Page)

By Corina Oliquino | FilAm Star Correspondent

DAVAO CITY – President Duterte ordered the country’s security forces, the police not to ‘respond’ to United Nations (UN) rapporteurs who would investigate human rights abuses under his administration’s drug war at the National SWAT Challenge last March 1.

“Pagdating ng human rights o sino mang rapporteur diyan, ang order ko sa inyo, do not answer. Do not bother,” Duterte told Rappler.

“Why would we be answering? Bakit, sino sila? And who are you to interfere in the way I would run my country?” Duterte added.

In a report by Rappler, Duterte said rapporteurs or experts should consider that the Philippines is “being swallowed by drugs” and said that he would want a different UN rapporteur to investigate allegations of human rights violation in his drug war, and not UN rapporteur Agnes Callamard.

In a statement, Foreign Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano said that the Philippines won’t accept Callamard because of her “bias and antagonistic stance towards the Philippine government.”’

Back in July 2017, Duterte told the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Office of the Ombudsman that the police and military need not participate in any of their investigations.

Duterte’s order makes police complicit
In a report by The Philippine Star, Karapatan’s Secretary-general Cristina Palabay said that the President’s order to the country’s security forces to ignore UN experts who would investigate drug war killings would urge the cops and soldiers to cover up abuses and violations.

“Duterte’s orders to police and military not to cooperate with the UN vis a vis investigations on extra-judicial killings are crystal clear orders to be complicit in covering up human rights violations,” Palabay told The Philippine Star last March 2.

Palabay noted that the attempt to prevent other people from looking into the country’s situation would “foster a worse climate of impunity.”

Palabay also insisted that UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard and special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst be allowed to conduct independent probes in the country.

Moreover, Amnesty International Philippines has called on the government to “cooperate fully” with the preliminary examination of the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor (OTP)into the reported human rights abuses in the country.

“This would ensure that the OTP’s factual and legal assessment of the different phases of the preliminary examination can take place effectively and efficiently,” AI Philippines Vice- chairperson Romeo Cabarde Jr. told The Philippine Star.

“If the Philippines does investigate and prosecute suspected perpetrators and works closely with the ICC when doing so, the OTP may decide not to open an investigation. However, this would only be the case if the prosecutor has solid evidence and is absolutely satisfied by genuine and comprehensive investigations and prosecutions at the national level,” Cabalde added.

If Callamard visits to investigate, Palace will invite her to swim in Pasig River
In a report by GMA News last March 3, during a briefing in Zamboanga del Norte, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Palace will only invite United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard to swim in Pasig River if she will visit the Philippines to investigate alleged human rights violations.

“Welcome po siya dahil after all we welcome all tourists. Kaya lang ang masama doon huwag niyang palalabasin na nag-imbestiga siya kasi ang pagpasok sa Pilipinas hindi naman po iyan katumbas ng pag-iimbestiga,” Roque said.

“So, kung siya po ay papasok sabihin niya, nagkaroon siya ng obserbasyon bilang turista. So kapag pumasok siya ay aanyayahan po namin siyang lumangoy sa malamig na tubig ng Pasig River,” Roque added.

In the same briefing, Roque said that the Philippine government will only allow a UN probe into human rights situation in the country if it will send a special rapporteur that is not biased.

“Makikipagtulungan lang tayo sa mga tao na wala pang conclusion at may katapatan na talagang mag-iimbestiga sila,” Roque said.

Roque’s statement comes after Duterte ordered soldiers and policemen not to respond to UN special rapporteurs’ questions about the country’s human rights situation.

Duterte has made the remark after Iceland, during the 37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, urged the Philippines to accept a visit from a UN special rapporteur without pre-conditions or limitations.